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

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Hiatus

The blog is on hiatus, as our dear readers have probably figured out from the recent lack of posts. We're using the next few months to continue expanding our business (we're currently in Atlanta, GA; Augusta, GA; Boston, MA) and focusing on delivering further profits. Yeah, it's the typical business jargon but it's difficult maintaining a blog and the business has to come first.

We should be on break for a few months. In the meantime, we'll also be brainstorming ideas for how to improve the blog and streamline our operations. If you have any suggestions or general commentary you can always drop us a line

Thanks for reading so far - since we started about a year ago, we've had well over 3,000 hits as well as countless readers through Facebook Notes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EI: Do Not Invest Here

You probably should not invest in this company. Not for a reason like flawed logic (if anything, Sham makes many strong points and I like his overall style) but because a great investment idea isn't shared on a public forum like a blog.

If it were a great idea, Sham would be buying up shares and shares of the company, rather than sharing the idea. Even the great Buffett doesn't disclose the companies he's actively investing in... he only discloses after a certain period because it's required by the SEC. But Buffett gets a delay on required disclosure when he's still buying shares of companies... so what this all tells me is that even if Sham is being nice and sharing a good idea, it's definitely not a great idea. And that means you probably shouldn't invest in Ternium Steel.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Are Our Brains Wired For Math?

Strong piece from The New Yorker. A quote and then my quick thoughts below:

"Dehaene has spent most of his career plotting the contours of our number sense and puzzling over which aspects of our mathematical ability are innate and which are learned, and how the two systems overlap and affect each other. He has approached the problem from every imaginable angle... And he has weighed the extent to which some languages make numbers more difficult than others. His work raises crucial issues about the way mathematics is taught. In Dehaene’s view, we are all born with an evolutionarily ancient mathematical instinct. To become numerate, children must capitalize on this instinct, but they must also unlearn certain tendencies that were helpful to our primate ancestors but that clash with skills needed today. And some societies are evidently better than others at getting kids to do this. In both France and the United States, mathematics education is often felt to be in a state of crisis. The math skills of American children fare poorly in comparison with those of their peers in countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. Fixing this state of affairs means grappling with the question that has taken up much of Dehaene’s career: What is it about the brain that makes numbers sometimes so easy and sometimes so hard?"

Great points all around. And the point that children must unlearn certain tendencies that were helpful to our primate ancestors but clash with skills needed today is something that I had personally not thought of until this article. Make sure to click through to get to more of Dehaene's interesting research.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

How To Lie With Statistics

Abnormal Returns writes about how to lie with statistics... but that's not exactly the point in the post! And regardless, here's a phrase I like to repeat: statistics don't lie, people do!

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Augusta Views: Group Work

I'm not a fan of group work in school & I haven't encountered many people who are. I don't have anything against the idea; in fact, I whole-heartedly support the intentions behind it. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between those intentions and the reality of what I've learned from such experiences.

I can only assume that group work is a part of our educational career because it's an inevitable part of the "real" world. But, in my mind, the two situations are too different for it to be an effective exercise. In school, individuals know that ultimately their success or failure is dependent solely on their performance. (At least this is usually an assurance attached to group assignments in the classroom, no doubt from years of student-driven uproar.) Outside the realm of education, however, such guarantees vanish. Everyone depends on one another to accomplish the task at hand, thus the individuals' success or failure is inextricably tied to that of their groupmates.

Why the difference? If we're meant to learn about collaboration and delegation, why is the incentive to do so removed from the equation? If my only motivation is to do my allocated part of the project or task, why do I care about the quality of the end result?

This frustrates me especially because I've experienced both sides. I've worked in groups outside of the realm of education & it's been an enjoyable experience, something to be proud of. I've also been a part of groups in an educational setting and felt embarrassed at the end for how poorly it turned out.

Perhaps I've got it backwards. Now that I consider it, I can see how my very same argument could be applied in the converse manner, i.e. that the "real world model" offers less incentive to individuals than the "classroom model" does. I suppose it could be my nature to be more motivated & to feel more ownership toward a group project when we're all in it together, so to speak.

Thoughts? Anyone care to offer the counter-argument?

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There's lots more to read & discuss at the full blog: click on through!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Today Is Jonathan Sharma Day

My friend Sharma recently was part of a team that won a pretty prestigious space award. You'll notice we refer to him in the previous post, but here are just a few of the additional links of him in the news:

Are you a friend of College Knowledge and have good news to share? Drop us a line.

Space Vs. The Environment

...Ask some vaguely green people what's the single biggest thing they can do to tackle climate change, and most will respond with a guilty smile: "yes, I know, I should stop flying."
A few brave, selfless souls do just that. But the rest of us are far too used to cheap, quick getaways to kick the habit completely...

Read more here. Hat tip goes to my good friend Jonathan Sharma, who you'll notice is doing big things.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cell Phones For Learning

Here's a new program that's putting special cell phones in the hands of students in NYC. Hat tip to Freakonomics and this recent post. A summary:

Education officials began doling out cellphones to 2,500 students on Wednesday as part of a closely watched experiment to try to change the way teenagers think about doing well in school. The pilot program, at three Brooklyn middle schools and four charter schools, is part of an effort by Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to motivate students to perform better academically — and reward them when they do.

Each student is receiving a Samsung flip-phone in a package specially designed with the program’s logo. The phones come loaded with 130 prepaid minutes. Good behavior, attendance, homework and test scores will be rewarded with additional minutes. Teachers and administrators will also be able to use a system to send text messages to several students at a time, to remind them, say, of upcoming tests and other school information.

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Tax Rate Graph


Thanks to Greg Mankiw for the pointer!

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Perspective on Life

I like reading Ben Casnocha's blog almost every day but this recent post on the curves of life was more interesting than the usual high quality posts he shares with readers. Money quote:

But all life need not be measured by a single rise and fall. “You can maybe have a second curve, and a third curve,” Handy explained. The trick, he said, is that “you have to choose the next curve before the first curve peaks so that you have enough resources coming in to experiment...because it always takes about two years from the beginning of a new curve until the point where it transcends the peak of the old."

Now I don't fully agree with the "about two years" regarding the beginning of a curve to the point where it transcends the peak of the old, but regardless it is an interesting perspective on life and raises quite a few important questions.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Oh Pennies

Here's a unique story about students protesting their shorter lunch breaks using pennies. While it's definitely not a big deal story, I do think that *if* the students are still being respectful then their means of protest is actually creative. However, if students are being disrespectful while doing their protest, they're merely making themselves look even more foolish. Oh well, something to read on a slow Sunday like today...

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Make sure to browse through our blog here.

EI: Notes on Warren Buffett Meeting

Students from Emory and UT Austin had a Q&A with Warren Buffett and here are some notes on the highlights. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time.

And here's the link to Warren Buffett's most recent letter to shareholders (2007).

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Quick Update on Harvard

Hey folks, just checking in after the HBS admit weekend - it was great! Saw a class in action, learned about the school, met some interesting people, and already made some great friends.

An video example of the case method at Harvard can be found here. That's what I saw in action!

Anyways, hope everyone is having a good weekend. We'll be back to our regular posting on Monday.

A bit more on the case method:

The Case Method

Although HBS uses a variety of learning techniques, our primary form of instruction is the case method, an interactive process in which students and faculty teach and learn from each other.
HBS cases are firsthand accounts of actual management problems that stem from a variety of interdependent factors and span all aspects of business. Each case is bounded by the constraints and incomplete information available when the decision in the case had to be made. Placing themselves in the role of the case protagonists (managers), students perform analyses and recommend a course of action -- without knowing the outcome of the decision at hand.

Rooted in an understanding of how managers learn, the case method is a gradual process that requires engaging in action in order to learn from experience. The facts and figures in a case are only the beginning of this process, serving as a springboard for dynamic discussion in the classroom.

As such, the case method relies on the active intellectual and emotional involvement of every student. As students derive generalizations across multiple case analyses, these generalizations are constantly explored and tested using evidence from specific cases. This in turn strengthens each student's ability to address any number of specific issues, which is the true value of this learning method.

Rather than teaching "to" students, HBS faculty facilitate shared learning by helping students teach themselves and each other -- in essence, by preparing students to take charge of their own learning and development. As a result, HBS students have a dual responsibility to both learn and teach, with the faculty's guidance and support.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Augusta Views: Oops!

Sorry, folks! I completely forgot what day it was & missed my post! I, too, am going out of town this weekend, but I'll be back next week. Tune in Thursday!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On The Road: Northeast Edition

Hey we're on the road Wednesday through Sunday, first in Newport and then in Boston, so posting will be iffy. However, you can look for Becca's regularly scheduled post Thursday!

Something to think about: how much universities should have to spend on their endowment.

Inflation in People

Of course, when this sort of hyper inflation starts happening then the phrase "I'll give 100%" starts to mean much less.

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Read the rest of our insights and posts here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

College Tuition and Endowments

The Becker-Posner blog is unique because of the access it provides to two top-notch economists. Two days ago Becker wrote about college tuitions and endowments and made this great point:

The increase in tuition has been much faster than the rise in consumer prices over the same time period. However, the benefits from a college education in the form of higher earnings, better health, better educated children, and many other aspects of life have grown much faster than tuition has. The result is that benefits net of all college costs have increased at an unprecedented fast rate during the past 30 years. College-educated persons increasingly have achieved elite status not only in the United States, but in other countries as well, including developing countries like China, India, and Mexico.

So it is hard to feel sorry for college students despite the rise in college tuition.

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Your thoughts? Leave 'em on our full blog.

Monday, February 25, 2008

EI: Bad Call, Alan!

Enough said...

Catching Cheaters

I somehow missed this post a while back on Freakonomics about catching cheaters and wanted to point our readers to the actual post. More importantly is this quote that caught my attention (thoughts follows):

Are school districts more likely today to be receptive to an outsider selling cheating detection services than they were back when we first thought about doing it? Definitely not. What programs like No Child Left Behind have changed, however, is the stake that higher levels of government have in getting rid of cheating. State and federal governments are now allocating large amounts of money based on test scores. They don’t want to be in the business of generously rewarding cheaters. Relative to the money at stake, the costs of detecting cheaters is trivial — maybe a nickel per student per year, which seems like a small price to pay. Unlike individual school districts, state governments care about catching cheaters — or at least, they should.

So it seems like the incentives here are not aligned properly... and yet this isn't a bigger issue in the news? Maybe I'm missing something here but this does not seem right... thoughts?

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

EI: Chance and Probability

We've talked about luck before, how it relates to setting goals, and pointed readers to a book review of The Black Swan but (based on what we remember) we've never discussed the role of chance when it comes to investing. So here's a great piece from the insightful Epicurean Dealmaker and a quote to entice you to click through:

Investing is clearly a game that is far more complex and subject to dramatically more causal factors than tossing a coin. However, no sane person would deny that chance must play some sort of role in an investor's results. Baruch identifies a factor he calls "persistence" in a trader's superior returns. Does that mean that outcomes in sequential investing games are not independent? That winners tend to win? If so, why? Is this the result of skill, momentum, reputation, confidence?

Or are we looking at a dramatic case of survivorship bias, where the most successful (lucky) investors are the few among many that we focus on, send money to, and try to emulate simply because they have been successful? Are these wizards of finance only one or two coin tosses away from failure, ignominy, disgrace?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Now Here's Someone Who "Gets Us"

Chris Yeh often has great points to make over at his blog but this bit really struck a chord. He's right - running a small company is like an ant, running a big company is like an elephant. And I'm realizing more and more that it's really fun to be an ant but that making the transition to an elephant (since we're growing rapidly with three locations and more to come) is key - and that's where the bit on processes comes in (definitely noticing the importance of that!)

More importantly, an interesting thought tucked away at the bottom:

P.S. One final alternative to keep in mind: While a single ant can't move a rubber tree, an army of them certainly can (or at least decimate the village where the tree is planted). To what extent can your company act like a swarm of startups, rather than as single elephant?

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Insulting Us (Millenials)

Here's Joanne Jacobs pointing readers to a piece against millenials. It's surprising, though, given that we've blogged in the past how the "millenial" (I really dislike that term) generation is not more arrogant. Come on Joanne - we do things like make thankful lists. I generally like what Joanne Jacobs links to but I was definitely surprised to see the bit on millenials.

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Disagree? Agree? Well, check out the rest of the blog for more insights.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Augusta Views: Teacher Politics II

A while back I wrote this post about the influence of a professor's political views on those of his students. As I was catching up on my "internet reading" from the last few days, I found this article that relates to the discussion.

The Woessners' research sheds new light on the issue & offers an interesting twist to the story. Apparently, professors DO influence their students, and not only their political persuasions. Liberal students are more likely to follow in their professors' footsteps toward academia than are their conservative classmates.

Check it out & post comments! Despite leaning to the right, I do enjoy a good intellectual discussion now and again!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Make Great Teachers

Yesterday, we were pointed to a great bit in Time on how to make great teachers from our friend Elizabeth. An introductory quote:

About 3.2 million people teach in U.S. public schools, but, according to projections by economist William Hussar at the National Center for Education Statistics, the nation will need to recruit an additional 2.8 million over the next eight years owing to baby-boomer retirement, growing student enrollment and staff turnover—which is especially rapid among new teachers. Finding and keeping high-quality teachers are key to America's competitiveness as a nation.

So we'll have a huge teacher shortage that will be another key factor in threatening the United States' long term competitive ability. Why not open it up to market forces? This is something we talked about yesterday and previously. But here's more from the article that is really encouraging:

There's little research on what makes for a successful merit-pay system, but several factors seem critical, says Matthew Springer, director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University. Denver's program includes many of them: a careful effort to earn teacher buy-in to the plan, clarity about how it works, multiple ways of measuring merit, rewards for teamwork and schoolwide success, and reliable financing. In fact, Denver's voters agreed to pay an extra $25 million a year in taxes for nine years to support the program.
It's too soon to say if ProComp will raise achievement in Denver, but a pilot study found that students of teachers who enrolled on a trial basis performed better on standardized tests than other students. The program is already successful by another measure: raising the number of teachers applying to work in Denver's most troubled schools.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Not Quite There...

Over the weekend, I read this same bit about a teacher's attempt towards reaching National Board certification, but what's more interesting isn't the end result but rather the teacher's journey... (cliche, I know!)

But what's perhaps more interesting than the teacher's tale is this quote in Joanne Jacob's same post:

"Betsy thinks teachers won’t be treated as professionals as long as they’re sheltered from marketplace competition."

Well, we think it's quite true - there's nothing like the efficiency of the markets. So that's why we're all for merit pay and why we've blogged about it before. The same logic applies to Betsy's point: if a teacher is good, they wouldn't be opposed to merit pay; if they're bad, they would be. And as we also wrote: the best way to protect your pay and job is to continually improve and add value, especially in what is popularly called our increasingly global economy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The End of Literacy?

Are we facing the end of literacy? That's something I read about in Sunday's Washington Post and I'll tell you: it doesn't look great for future generations.

Two quotes stuck out at me, here's the first:

The signs -- students' declining reading scores, the drop in leisure reading to just minutes a week, the fact that half the adult population reads no books in a year -- are all pointing to the day when a literate American culture becomes a distant memory. By contract, optimists foresee the Internet ushering in a new, vibrant participatory culture of words. Will they carry the day?
Maybe neither. Let me suggest a third possibility: Literacy -- or an ensemble of literacies -- will continue to thrive, but in forms and formats we can't yet envision.

And here's the second:

But now, at the start of the 21st century, there's a dizzying set of literacies available -- written languages, graphic displays and notations. And there's an even broader array of media -- analog, digital, electronic, hand-held, tangible and virtual -- from which to pick and choose. There will inevitably be a sorting-out process. Few media are likely to disappear completely; rather, the idiosyncratic genius and peculiar limitations of each medium will become increasingly clear. Fewer people will write notes or letters by hand, but the elegant handwritten note to mark a special occasion will endure.

So it doesn't look like the end of literacy, but rather the end of literacy... as we currently know it.

Moving along in Boston

Hey all! I've been MIA for a bit - working on settling down back in the US after my stint overseas. But things here are going well, and we are on track for getting on our feet in the Boston area. Finding tutors, marketing to clients, and should be rolling shortly.

In more personal news, I am living in Boston - obviously - and the apartment is sweet. My roommate and I live about 15 minutes away from downtown and are enjoying exploring a new city and taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of Beantown. Below is a picture of our living room, as well as one of my bedroom.

Hope all is well out there!

My roommate hanging out in the living room


My bedroom

Friday, February 15, 2008

College Courses Up For Auction

Again, hat tip to Arts & Letters Daily for this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about class scheduling & managing competition for the "good" classes.

If you've ever experienced the madness of trying to enroll in a class that you either needed to graduate or just had to take, you'll sympathize with students at UPenn's Wharton business school, where they've devised an auction system for class registration. Fitting, that the home of one of the top MBA programs in the world would apply economics in an attempt at restoring order to the chaos.

However, I think such a system requires a specific student population to be successful. In this instance, the solution is uniquely tailored to the students. Similarly, it's not overly surprising that those wishing to take a wine tasting course sleep outside the professor's office on the eve of registration.

I also wondered as I read this article if these systems of managed competition for classes would only tend to inflate the "value" of one class over another. It seems that the higher priced courses would draw the attention of students away from less-desired ones that may in fact be more interesting to some individuals. Also, new courses would struggle to compete with old favorites and may not be given the chance to take hold. Though I'm probably biased since my favorite classes in undergraduate were far off the beaten path of my major & largely unknown to the rest of the university!

Regardless, it's an interesting concept. Any thoughts?

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Arts & Letters Daily: aldaily.com

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Augusta Views: Presidential Candidates IAT

Project Implicit is an on-going, collaborative research effort by researchers at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington to measure implicit (i.e. outside of conscious control) feelings/associations on a variety of topics. I've taken some of their tests - which are called Implicit Association Tests, or IATs - before on multiple occasions, and it's always been an enlightening experience. I'd encourage you to visit the website to take a test or two. It's an eye-opener!

However, today a reference on www.edge.org to a 2008 Presidential Candidate IAT. The test didn't help me decide who to cheer for, but it was interesting to see how I subconsciously relate them to one another. Apparently, three of the candidates are fairly well tied in my unconscious mind!

Anyway, Project Implicit is fascinating in and of itself, and particularly so with this test that they've developed. Take a look!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On Expectations (and Managing Them)

"One of the skills every marketer (if not every person) needs to master is the art of managing expectations.

Managing expectations is a "Goldilocks" task--too high, and they'll be impossible to meet; too low, and they'll detract from your accomplishments; just right, and you'll be a hero. Of the potential pitfalls, high expectations are perhaps the most dangerous..."

Read more of Chris Yeh's post here.

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We've got some great reading over at our blog too, which was featured in Google's Blogs of Note!

Obama and Clinton Tied!

It was a less than one in a million chance, according to a math professor at Syracuse, that Obama and Clinton ended up tied in a Syracuse primary last week. But that's not what's important. Rather, this quote:

It is always problematic to assign probabilities after events unfold; better to decide in advance what outcome you’d find interesting, and calculate that event’s likelihood. Before last Tuesday, political junkies might have said they’d find any tie interesting, not necessarily one specifically in Syracuse. By that broader measure, a tie isn’t that surprising — since Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama were essentially tied nationally in votes, and the chance of a tie in Syracuse was one in 137.

Click through to the post to read more...

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Or click through to our blog for other interesting thoughts...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Selling Our Future Short

You often hear about companies opening up operations in emerging countries, but it's interesting to see that universities are doing the same. One thought that came to mind after reading this: if our arcane visa laws for talented foreign workers already keep more people than necessary from staying in our country after graduating, then wouldn't these "university outposts" begin to stop the flow of foreign workers who even make it to our country? Seems like short term interests are selling our future short... which is quite the concern.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Next President (and Other Tidbits)

Odds on the next president.

Something that just might boost the US economy, moreso than a stimulus plan or tax cuts.

And finally, some amazing soccer gymnastics. Being a former serious player turned once a weeker, I'm seriously impressed.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

No Country For Young Men

No Country For Young Men is a really hard hitting piece from The Atlantic on the future of the USA and its baby boomers. This is for anyone interested in the future of this country... a hard hitting quote:

Social Security is the comparatively easy problem to solve. It will go from consuming 4.3 percent of GDP in 2007 to absorbing about 6.2 percent in 2030. That’s a big jump—if the cost were spread evenly, it would be equivalent to about a 5 percent increase in payroll taxes for each worker—but by and large, the economy will be able to cope.

Medicare is a different story. Health-care costs now consume about 16 percent of GDP, but projections by the Department of Health and Human Services suggest that by 2016, that will have risen to almost 20 percent. Wise speculates that closing the Medicare budgetary gap would require a tax increase of something on the order of 8 to 12 percent of total payroll. That is a massive tax increase—$4,000 to $6,000 a year on a $50,000 income (again assuming the tax were spread evenly). Many economists and budget analysts have drawn up plans intended to fix Social Security, through some combination of benefit cuts, higher retirement ages, and tax increases. But almost no one claims to have any good ideas about Medicare.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Augusta Views: Medical School Bytes Again!

In the spirit of studying & sharing the cool stuff I've learned, here's some more fun facts. This time it's all about the kidneys, which are amazing!

The kidneys filter blood through fancy little capsules called glomeruli. Most of the liquid part of the blood, plasma, is taken back up into the bloodstream, but some of it goes on for more processing. This is how urine is formed, not by the digestive tract as most people think.

There are 11.8 miles of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) scrunched up in the two million or so glomeruli we have in the kidneys. The kidneys themselves are each only about the size of your fist & the glomeruli hardly take up the most space, so this is pretty staggering!

The glomerular capillaries as they're called are the site of filtration, which is a surface area dependent process (bigger filter, more stuff filtered). Special cells hang out on these capillaries reducing the surface area for filtration from 930 square inches (10-11 sheets of paper) to about 80 square inches...which is less than the area of ONE regular sheet of paper! This incredibly small area still manages to filter every bit of our blood 60 times a day!!

Not to mention the kidney's role in regulating blood pressure, salt & water balance, potassium, calcium, acid/base balance, and quite a bit more. And the brain doesn't really get involved. Transplanted kidneys don't have nervous input for years (nerves grow back slowly), but they work just fine. The kidney "knows" how to manage all of these things all on its own! Now isn't that amazing?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We're Not More Arrogant

This just in: today's young people aren't more arrogant than previous generations. Quote:

Overall, negative traits such as superiority have diminished over the years. More positive traits, such as self-sufficiency and leadership, have actually increased.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

EI: "Disasters"

A strong piece from the New Yorker on the price we pay for innovation. Money quote:

The situation illustrates a fundamental paradox of today’s financial system: it’s bigger than ever, but terrible decisions by just a few companies—not even very big companies, at that—can make the entire edifice totter.

It's Who You Know...

Another good piece I like to tell people is this saying: it's not about what you know, it's about who you know.


This is actually one of my top rules rules to live by. I’ve noticed more and more how a lot of the people I know get by based on the people their parents, families, or they themselves know. Many people I’ve met that aren’t as successful have the talent, the drive, and the personality but they don’t have those key connections that more successful people tend to have.


This touches on the importance of a network. Just make sure you aren't being left out...

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Six Best Ads

Portfolio's take on the six best ads. I've got to say this is just another point where I disagree with Portfolio, though usually it's on their financial advice or commentary. My take on the best three (not necessarily the three funniest):
  • Tide To Go "talking stain" commercial
  • NFL's "Oboe" commercial
  • Coca-Cola's "Charlie Brown" commercial

Of course, you might think I'm biased based on one of our bloggers having played the oboe and mentioning it a few weeks ago.

Hypocritical Politicians: A Good Thing?

I know it's a little late in the day for a post, but this article from The Boston Globe is particularly intriguing and timely. (Credit goes to Arts & Letters Daily 'cause I wouldn't have found it otherwise.) Here's a quote to peak your interest. Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

"But is hypocrisy really so bad? Given what it takes to get elected, and what we expect of politicians once in office, we may want to think again about political hypocrisy. Hypocrisy may not be an attractive human quality, but in politics, it is often a desirable one - and may sometimes be better than the alternative.

Hypocrites, in constructing an electable persona for themselves, are clearly demonstrating that they understand their personal limitations. They recognize the need to adapt what they happen to believe to what is politically prudent. So it's possible to see hypocrisy as evidence of politicians who will do what they say once in office because they set no special premium by their private preferences."

Friday, February 1, 2008

All You've Got To Do Is Ask

One bit of advice I like to give out is this: all you've got to do is ask. This relates to proposing new ideas, but I always ask for more in almost any situation, particularly after I’ve done something good.

If you're at work, you can play these inquiries into looking for more challenges and say you’re just being opportunistic while completing your assignments. If you're at school, you can use this to get more meaningful assignments and then turn the entire experience into background for getting a recommendation.

The main point is that by asking you're not leaving anything on the table - you're generally getting every last bit of opportunity available to you!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Augusta Views: A Successful Volunteer Company

I love the internet. The other day, through a bizarre series of clicks, I came across a company that I doubt I would've ever found on my own: Ouray Ice Park Inc.

Aside from being an easily accessible place to go ice climbing, if one is so inclined, the Ouray Ice Park is about as close to a complete volunteer organization as you can get! Located in Ouray, CO, the ice park was started by a small group of volunteers and funded entirely by donations. Now they have 5 part-time employees, memberships, corporate sponsors, and an annual festival to sustain them. To boot, it's touted as the "greatest ice climbing facility in the world." And climbing is free!

Click here for more info from the history page of their website.

Something tells me that I'm going to be learning to ice climb in the near future. Wanna come?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Abolish Trays!

Looks like it's time to abolish lunch trays. Very interesting...

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

Book Review: "The Daily Drucker"

This was a great book I skimmed through when I had a brief break back over the holidays to step into the local Barnes and Nobles. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
  • Are you a great actor in a terrible play? What are you going to do about it? (From February 11)
  • Do not separate personal values of what is right and wrong from the values you put into practice at work (April 27)
  • Make sure in the pursuit of economic performance you develop people (June 28)
  • Create a time log of your activities. Eliminate those activities that are time wasters (September 2)
  • Explain why this is true: in order for a business to "do good," it must first "do well," and indeed very well (December 22)
As many of you already know, Peter Drucker is arguably the most influential thinker in management and perhaps business. He wrote books for around 60 years and The Daily Drucker is a collection of his most powerful thoughts and lessons spread out over a year, giving you a nice dose of Drucker everyday. This book makes a great gift for the business inclined.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Google Linked Us

Specifically in this post their team had about a post we had around Christmas a few weeks ago... we're the link at the bottom! Very neat...

A Quote from NNT

A fascinating quote to get you thinking straight from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's webpage:

My major hobby is teasing people who take themselves and the quality of their knowledge too seriously and those who don't have the guts to sometimes say: I don't know... (You may not be able to change the world but can at least get some entertainment and make a living out of the epistemic arrogance of the human race).

Oh and here's what NNT considers a nice summary of his ideas.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Illusion of Knowledge

This was a great piece on the illusion of knowledge via Ben Casnocha. I've blogged before about Ben, but he's actually very accessible - Ben has answered my emails in the past very promptly.

Anyways, hopefully everyone had a good weekend... Monday can be a tough day for students and workers. It won't be too tough for Orion, though, since it's his birthday today.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Great Quote!

This afternoon I started reading a book that I've been meaning to read for a while now, and so far so good! The book is entitled What We Believe But Cannot Prove and is a collection of short essays by the leading thinkers answering that very question. I can tell I'll be raving about it further when I've finished, but this quote struck me today & I couldn't resist sharing! A slightly morbid, but still amusing, reason to believe in faith without proof:

"We have no guarantee of eternal life, not at all. The enigma of death is still there, ineradicable. But the basic fact that we are still here, despite snakes, stupidity, and nuclear weapons, gives us reason to have confidence in ourselves and each other, to trust others, to trust life itself. To have faith. Because we are here, we have reason for having faith in having faith." - Tor NΓΈrretranders

A Gem of a Comment

I'd like to point you to a gem of a comment that Orion left. Definitely worth a read.

The Joys Of Travel

I feel strongly about travel. As regular readers have gathered, I enjoy traveling almost every weekend. In 2007 alone I made (in many cases multiple) trips to the following places:
So why do I share this? Because I believe that travel is one of those great ways of getting and understanding different perspectives. Plus, given the way air travel has become, it is a great way of building up one's patience. To me, travel and reading are two of the best ways of broadening one's horizons and understanding the world.

The ultimate point of this post is to encourage you to travel as much as possible; if you're deciding between saving a few bucks or heading out for a weekend, I will tell you from experience that travel is one of those things you usually do not regret doing, particularly if it is a unique travel opportunity. Of course, it helps to have great friends in these locations to help you save on hotel costs. Regardless, I hope you consider exploring as much of the world as possible!

P.S. An informative and usually fun take on travel is Arthur Frommer's blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Augusta Views: Reflective Listening

I started thinking about this topic a couple of weeks ago with this post, and again today I realized how important it is to be a good listener.

Reflective listening (aka. active listening) is a way to make sure that you're hearing what the other person is saying. I think of it like those mirrors in shoe stores, you know that slant upwards so you can see the shoe properly? The mirror shows you what's in front of it, your shoe, but that tilt lets you see if it looks the way you think it looks.

Similarly, when you're listening to someone, repeating back to them what you've understood helps them to know you're on the same page. This technique is more useful in some situations than in others, admittedly. I hardly recommend it on a first date for instance! But in conversations where it is effective, reflective listening can make all the difference.

Take education, tutoring specifically. Upon initially meeting a student, it is the tutor's job to find out where exactly that student needs help. (Calculus is a pretty big subject!) If the tutor practices reflective listening as the student explains his issues, he gains a better picture of that student's needs and can therefore tutor him more effectively. The reverse is true as well. In any learning situation, whether from a tutor or a professor, the student will always do well to listen reflectively. Simply rephrase the concept & ask whoever is teaching to confirm your understanding or lack thereof. In fact, it's most helpful when you find out that you don't understand because then you can figure it out...before the test!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heroes

Who are your heroes? That is, who do you look up to/learn from/emulate/etc?

This may be a generalization, though I will be careful to word it so that it's not all encompassing: A good number of young boys look up to athletes and (this is my guess) a similarly good number of young girls look up to movie stars... but it's interesting to see how one's heroes change as one grows up. And I've been thinking that maybe the kids who don't have typical heroes go on to live atypical lives (that's opening up a big can of worms!)

I'll offer my own feelings as an example:

In this rough order, and as well as I can remember, I looked up to athletes such as Michael Jordan. Then I looked up to successful people like Bill Gates. Then I got into my "I want to go to law school" phase and started looking up to lawyers like Alan Dershowitz (it helps that he came to speak at Galloway one year). Then I decided, for much of my college years, that I didn't really look up to anyone before finally I realized how lucky I am and started looking up to my parents.

So how do you differ? Is your timeline of heroes vastly different? And could who we look up to impact our current successes? I'd venture it at least impacts our current desires, if not being a good reflection of these desires...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Congratulations, Rafael!

I am thrilled to announce that Rafael Corrales, Co-Founder of College Knowledge, has been accepted to the Harvard Business School for the MBA class of 2010! Congratulations!

Needless to say, this is terrific news for College Knowledge. A company that has already enjoyed phenomenal success & shown tremendous promise can only benefit from such an opportunity for one of its founders. As a student at HBS, Rafael will no doubt learn many new and exciting ways to make College Knowledge even better than it already is!

This step in Rafael's career relates to so many of the things that we try to emphasize here on CK's blog. First and foremost, I think it shows that we are 110% committed to education and lifelong learning. Rafael & Orion clearly know a little something about business, so one could easily wonder whether or not he needs Harvard Business School to be successful. But that's just the point. Being successful is not just about having the skills; broadening one's horizons and expanding one's network are often of equal importance. And that's what Rafael will gain from Harvard. Well, that and his business card's gonna look a heck of a lot snazzier!

Congratulations, again, and well done! You've shown us all that having a few things in the pipeline (or up your sleeve) can seriously pay off!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Review: "The Amber Spyglass"

Take some time to reflect on MLK Day...

I love when "it all comes together" in a book series. This experience is similar to what I felt when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows... it's too bad The Amber Spyglass originally came out over 10 years ago (it's too bad because I wish I had read this series earlier).

This third book starts off slower (and does not throw you into the action like the first two) but the pace quickens and, of course, the plot thickens. In fact, one thing I noticed is that even halfway through the book I had no clue how most of the plot was going to resolve itself... which makes it even more incredible when it all comes together in the end.

I greatly enjoyed this series and if you have a couple hours free time I encourage loyal readers of this blog to pick up the first book, at least, and try it out. Worst comes to worst you spent $7 or 8 dollars on the book; in the best case scenario, you become thoroughly entertained and read a wonderful series that touches on all the major themes of life but teaches a wonderful (and to me surprising) lesson about love.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Out Of Pocket" for MLK Weekend

I will be "out of pocket" from today through Monday, January 21st enjoying New York City with my family and I will be returning with more posts and insights on Monday, January 21st!

I hope everyone uses at least some time on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 21st) to think about the life and contributions of MLK to our society.

"See you" all Monday (unless something crazy comes up)...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Augusta Views: Snow & American Idol

I am here to report that snow has officially fallen in Augusta, Georgia! ...As part of a wintry mix, but hey, I'll take it! And American Idol has started up again to boot! It's a great Thursday.

Snow & American Idol are two things that simply make me happy. (They'll definitely both make it to my thankful list tonight!) While I normally wouldn't pair them, they happened to come together today, so....

I've really been missing the snow since I moved from Utah. Most people who live around it long enough begin to hate the stuff; I guess 4 years wasn't enough for me! It's just a magical feeling to see snow falling. The big fluffy kind makes the whole world quieter & more peaceful-feeling. Not to mention the endless entertainment possibilities that come with freshly fallen snow! I absolutely love the stuff. Even the wet, wintry mix kind! Not nearly as good for playing in, but equally fascinating to watch.

And American Idol...well, I can't say I've "missed" it per se, but I am glad that it's back. Two reasons really: first of all, the auditions are marvelously amusing and secondly because the WGA strike has deprived me of my "regularly scheduled programming." (Not that I think that the writers aren't entitled or anything, I'm merely being selfish.) But really, aside from the crazy people who will do ANYTHING to get on television (I'm sure YouTube has some great clips by now), I really admire these people who have the confidence to audition. For Simon Cowell no less! I enjoy watching the show as much to applaud the people who try as to laugh at the ones who are clearly there for no other purpose...I hope.

This seems to be a theme that I come back to a lot, that is, things that make me happy. Like the "thankful list" that CK suggested yesterday, taking note of the things in life that you enjoy can really keep you thinking positively. Today, it just happened to be snow & American Idol that got me smiling. What was, or is, it for you?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making a Thankful List

Stressed out? I suggest making a thankful list. All you do is write down three things you are thankful for at the end of the day - it can be anything, from a person, to an object, to an activity, etc.

I started this practice a few months ago, stopped for a while after I was robbed (sadly this is right when I should have been going strongest), and continued the practice into this year. It has been something small and private that has helped me stay positive through those stressful or occasional tough moments. Indeed, there's nothing like a dose of personal perspective.

For a bit more perspective, make sure to watch Steve Job's commencement speech from a few years ago - it is excellent and worth your time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book Review: "The Subtle Knife"

I had blogged earlier about the first book in the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullman and I had also mentioned wanting to see The Golden Compass in theaters. Well, I decided over the holidays that I would start and finish the second and third books among other things and I finished the second book in the series: The Subtle Knife.

Well, The Subtle Knife starts off in the same fashion as The Golden Compass - the book throws the reader right into the action. This time the perspective begins from Will's point of view (you've got to read the book to get all the details!) and then, almost immediately, his plot line meets up with Lyra's. The rest of the book is an incredible adventure and I had to "step back" to think about some of the more interesting fiction and points that the author makes in the story. It's also amazing to see the parallels between the story and current events.

I don't want to talk too much about the plot, particularly since describing the plot in this book would ruin parts of The Golden Compass, but I must say that so far both books have been incredibly entertaining. And I'm well aware of the religious aspects touched upon in the books but I think those are separate issues that can be acknowledged or ignored, depending on one's perspective or beliefs. The important thing is that the book is entertaining and makes you think. I would rate this book an 8.5 (and by the way I would rate The Golden Compass as an 8); I am looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.

P.S. In the previous book review about The Golden Compass I discussed going to see the movie. Well, I saw the movie a few weeks ago and I was somewhat disappointed by major plot points being flipped around or even changed. I much prefer the Harry Potter movie series because in those movies they stick (almost faithfully) to the original books.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Business Rules of Thumb

For those of you interested in business, here's a great collection of quotes that comprise the business rules of thumb from Ben Casnocha. Great stuff from a great guy!

Lessons From Newport

It seems like every time I come back from Newport I end up being tired but thankful for such a good time. In fact, I always have good conversations that range from reflecting one's parents to talking about books and getting started on book reviews. Of course, you can look back through the blog (just run a search for "Newport" in the blog search and you'll see the various posts referencing a weekend or trip there).

All that being said, this past weekend was interesting because I had never been in the winter. Newport is rather rainy this time of year and it's more similar to a ghost town because of the weather and off-peak travel season. Sure, I wasn't able to play golf or enjoy the outdoors, but the important thing is I was in great company and had a wonderful time. Even in the winter, Newport is special to me!

My favorite lesson (re-emphasized) is that to be successful and happy you must surround yourself with people who care about your success and happiness. Seems an easy lesson to remember, but being with great friends drives home the point!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review: "Leaving Microsoft To Change The World"

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World is a book that had a profound impact on my thinking. In fact, halfway through the book I got up to go buy my parents some impromptu gifts; granted, this isn't the same as going to Nepal to give books but it made me feel a bit better. (By the way, one of the impromptu gifts was this book for my dad!)

Anyways, the story is your (mostly) basic feel-good story about a corporate fellow (John Wood) who gives up his high-paying and high-stress job at Microsoft to go start a non-profit after he travels through Nepal on vacation. Well, it's actually that he's traveling and is stopped by a stranger who takes him to a school; once there, he promises to come back (with books!) and so begins the excellent adventure that is this book.

I'll leave the rest up to you, readers of the blog, because this book is also worth getting. I know I recommend a lot of the books that I book review, but this one is entertaining and heartwarming. I'll rate it a solid 7.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Oboe Advice Anyone?

Today's is quite the self-centered post, but I'm in a quandary. I used to play oboe in high school, and I've recently decided that I would like to play again. Problem is, I lack the instrument itself. I never knew too much about it to begin with, but upon Google searching "oboe for sale," it became apparent that I know even less than I thought about purchasing an oboe. I'm trying to strike the perfect balance between quality and expense. (These things apparently run around $5000 new!)

Thus, I turn to you, oh faithful readers of this blog, for help. Do you have any advice about purchasing an oboe? Or any type of musical instrument?

If you have friends who are "in the know" about such endeavors, please pass this on. I offer endless gratitude & valuable advice about leash-training a guinea pig in return! (That is, if you're interested.)

Thanks!
Becca

Augusta Views: People Skills

I was reminded today of the importance of having good "people skills." As medical students, we have several opportunities to interact with Standardized Patients. These individuals donate their time, pretending to be patients, and allow us to practice being physicians. We then get a chance to receive feedback & discuss ways to improve. Today, we had one such session during which we were practicing conversations about behavior change, such as smoking cessation or diet & exercise for weight management. I had absolutely no idea how to address these issues with a patient, so naturally I was quite nervous! We were given some direction, but mostly left to "wing it," while still managing to gather all the required information. I ended up doing well which I attribute primarily to having good people skills.

What are people skills and how can we develop them? To me, "people skills" include, among other things, the ability to carry on a conversation as well as the ability relate to another person. And as with everything, practice makes perfect. I enjoy going out with people I don't know very well as a way to practice my conversation skills, and I take every opportunity learn more about being empathetic. This probably also explains why I'm constantly trying to incite dialogue here on the blog!

I went into the exercise today worried that I didn't know the right questions to ask or the proper suggestions to make, yet it turned out that all I needed to do was to start the conversation and the rest followed naturally. The same is true for a variety of applications, in all walks of life, thus I think it is important for everyone to develop their people skills. It makes you more confident, and so often confidence makes all the difference.

Moral of the story: forget class, go out to dinner more often!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mavericks at Work Quotes

We here at College Knowledge originally offered up some Mavericks at Work quotes a few months ago but they may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Here are two of my favorites:

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 learn the most by interacting with people whose interests, backgrounds and experiences are the least like theirs (112-113).

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).

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Most Popular

December's most popular post (by measured hits) on our blog was actually this post followed by this one. Click the first if you have a few minutes to kill and the second if you'd like an interesting perspective on maturity.

Surprisingly, the third most popular post by hits was this book review - could it be Mezrich's fans are more web savvy than the readers of other books we've reviewed? Or perhaps that I mentioned a best seller in the post and that prompted it to show up in other Google and non-Google searches?

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My Philosophy on Reading

I have always been an avid reader, but never to the levels that I reached in 2007. In many ways, it was a wonderful year of self discovery; however, I highly doubt I would have grown half as much as a person were it not for the amount and (fortunately!) quality of books I read. Though I stopped keeping track after the first few months of 2007, I will estimate that I read (or re-read) over 100 books in 2007.

Now one might think that setting an arbitrary higher number for "books read" in 2008 would be the way I would go about things, but I think such a thing is highly necessary; rather, my goal in reading for 2008 is to read a wider variety of books and thus expose myself to more randomness. This should help me develop my ability to form and articulate ideas "from left field" and hopefully continue to help me grow as a person.

And I've been asked a few times about the best books I read in 2007 as well as books I'd recommend in a variety of fields (i.e. investing, business, life) so such queries will certainly drive a few more posts in the coming weeks!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Best of E-Ticket

I've always enjoyed ESPN's E-Ticket series offering an in-depth look into sports issues that would never make it onto their main page but are perhaps more relevant to everyday life. The pieces are longer than typical ESPN articles but are well worth the 10-15 minutes it takes to read.

Here are some of my favorites from 2007:

- Base Jumping
- Continuous Running
- China and 2008 Olympics
- Save the Whalers
- Rolling in Rubles
- Death Race 2007

All of these in-depth articles made me learn and see new perspectives: for example, I'd never have known how dangerous base jumping is, how crazy continuous running can be, the issues China is facing heading into the Olympics, the passion of high school football in Alaska, the money being thrown around in the "new economy" of Russia, or anything about the Death Race. Make sure to read some of the E-Tickets linked above!

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Don't miss the whole blog!

"EI": Financial Papers

Part of what I believe encompasses being a successful investor means keeping up to date on the latest developments in finance/financial theory. Therefore, I dutifully point you over to this post that quickly summarizes some recent finance related papers.

Another recommended method of "keeping up" that perhaps should come before diving into these papers is reading Capital Ideas Evolving, a neat and informative book on the major developments in financial theory over the past 40 or so years. Warning: this book some heavy hitting stuff that'll take a while to get through but that has helped this author immensely in the financial markets.

If you're looking to improve your ability as an investor, it will only help to make the book a reading priority for 2008. Get started now!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Back home!

First, a recap. I spent a week and a half with family in the UK, and it was FANTASTIC. I got to see my uncles and aunts, play with my cousins, meet new cousins I never knew existed, and spend time with my dear grandparents. It was everything I could have asked for.

Then this past Wednesday I flew into Boston and touched down on US soil for the first time in the past 6 months. what an AMAZING feeling to walk through the airport and see an ENORMOUS American flag stretched across the ceiling, and to realize in your heart, with much relief, "I’m back home." I met up with Duke, my roommate who flew in from DC so that we could see apartments together, and we took a shuttle down to our hotel [which is of course on the company dime]. Now Duke is starting at the office on Monday, although I have a little more time, so finding an apartment in the next 2 days was of the utmost importance. Checked in and went straightaway to our first destination, Ten Faxon [www.tenfaxon.com] to have a look around and whatnot. Liked what we saw, called it an evening, and went out for yummy sushi.

The next day we went to Munroe Place [www.munroeplace.com] to see what they had to offer. Finally, we met up with a young fella named Evan, who showed us around some places in South Boston. After seeing all these apartments, we realized that we both had settled on Ten Faxon a while ago, and so we went back with money orders in hand to initiate the application process. Got that taken care of, decided it had been a good day, and went out to The Four's for dinner and to watch the Orange Bowl. Kansas won. =( We were rooting for VT.

Friday we checked out of our hotel and went into town to meet up with a friend of mine, Bella. She let me leave my suitcases at her place, and then we hung out for the day. By 3:30 pm Duke and I found out that there were only a couple more steps to go before the lease would be ready, so we left to go to the bank, get the rest of our deposit money, and head down to Ten Faxon. Duke had a flight that night at 8 pm, so he had to be at the airport by 6:30, which meant he had to leave Ten Faxon by about 5:45 at the latest. By the time we got to the leasing office at 5:30, the last of the paperwork - the employment verifications - had JUST been faxed in, so Duke signed the lease and left straightaway to catch his flight. I stayed back, looked over the entire lease in detail, signed, and received the keys to the apartment and other stuff.

So basically, within two days and after a lot of hassle that I haven't even really talked about here, we had our apartment locked in. Now I can leave all my clothes and other stuff from India here in my apartment before I go back to Atlanta for the rest of the month.

Yay!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Magical "Click-throughs"

I've been running a small experiment at this blog by randomly (and not randomly) adding "click-throughs" to the bottom of posts and then measuring how traffic patterns change at our blog.

Of course, the practical reason for adding the "click-throughs" is to drive more traffic from our imported Facebook notes to our actual blog, where we can measure that traffic. This matters because by having readers consume our material on the actual blog we're able to see what posts and subject matters resonate most positively (popularly?) with readers. In Facebook there isn't a tool yet to measure readership/clicks/etc and so we're not able to see if 50, 100, 200 or more people are reading the blog daily through Facebook Notes alone.

The results of the experiment? A weak (almost non) correlation between the "click-throughs" at the bottom and increased traffic on the blog. The problem is that it's difficult to control for differing content matter, timing via holidays/other matters, and other factors.

Any suggestions? For that matter, any ideas about click-throughs?

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Here's another click through. This is intended to show you the rest of our great blog.

Physics... (Part 2)

About two weeks ago we wrote about how physics can be cool... and we hope you all enjoyed the post. But I was trolling through the Freakonomics blog and found a post called Physics with a Bang! with Steven Levitt calling attention to two professors at University of Chicago. Since we here at College Knowledge enjoy physics (and learning for that matter) be sure to click through to both links in this post!

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Reading in Facebook? Click through here to read the rest of the blog.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Augusta Views: New Section On The Right

Becca is back so we figured we'd take the time to add a nice section reflecting her blogging efforts. You'll notice that as of today there is a section on the right called Augusta Views where you can easily see the posts that Becca has penned for the College Knowledge (CK Tutors) Blog.

Enjoy the new section!

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Want more? Find it here.

Augusta Views: And we're back!

Happy New Year! I hope that 2008 will bring only the best to you all!

After a wonderfully relaxing break, I am back to Augusta & very excited for this semester. Sadly, I missed the first day of school today to an awful cold that has knocked me flat! It's taken a fair amount of decongestants to let me breathe; thus, I think it's in everyone's best interest that I do not attempt to write a coherent blog today.

I do have some great ideas in the works though, so stay tuned!

How To Read Better

Here's a great bit on reading above your level, via MR. Definitely worth at least a skim.

Money quote that I fully agree with:
Reading to lead or learn requires that you treat your brain like the muscle that it is--lifting the subjects with the most tension and weight. For me, that mean[s] pushing ahead into subjects you're not familiar with and wresting with them until you can--shying away from the "easy read."
When you start thinking of reading as a mental workout, it becomes even more fun knowing that you're enjoying yourself while improving your capabilities.

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Having a good new year? Great! But be sure to check out the rest of our blog.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Powerful Quotes for the New Year

Two quotes have stuck with me for a while and I thought they'd be great to share as we kick off another exciting year:

There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming. -Soren Kierkegaard

Inside books you will find hidden the mysteries of the world. With books, you can learn, and you can make a better future for your families and for our country. -Nepalese headmaster from Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

The first reflects my belief in every person's potential; the second my belief in the power of learning and capitalizing on previous experiences/mistakes. Also, look for a book review next week on Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood (founder of Room to Read).

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Curious? There's plenty to learn in the College Knowledge blog.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Everything Investing: 2 Years of Results

I've been investing for a few years, but I'd like to share how I did in my first two full years of investing. Perhaps these results will help drive more readership in our Everything Investing series though I'll warn that I never give out my stock picks or specific ideas:

76% overall return for my portfolio for the full year 2006 vs. 15% for S&P 500
21% overall return for my portfolio for the full year 2007 vs. 3.5% for S&P 500

Now I know benchmarking against the S&P 500 isn't the perfect way to measure one's investment success (believe me, there are many other indexes, risk adjustments to make, etc) but it's a very good track record when you look at the CAGRs of the greatest investors:
  • 29% for 37 yrs. - George Soros
  • 21% for 40 yrs. - Warren Buffett
  • 29% for 18 yrs. - Eddie Lampert
  • 29% for 18 yrs. - Peter Lynch
  • 24% for 13 yrs. - Jim Cramer
  • 15% for 20 yrs. - Benjamin Graham
Here's the source for those numbers.

And though I'm not anywhere close to them in terms of sustained performance, here's mine:
~46% CAGR over 2 years

Here's to a Happy New Year and many more years of high investment returns!

So Thankful for Milk and Oil

I never thought I'd write a post on this, but after seeing some family from Venezuela over the holidays and hearing their stories, I thought I'd share one of them to help anyone reading this be just a little more thankful for the wonderfulness of the United States.

Last time I went to Venezuela was in 2005, so I have been there relatively recently but have not witnessed the country's deterioration firsthand. When I went, Caracas seemed more run down than before, crime was way up, and it seemed to me that the city had lost a bit of its old extravagance.

Well, things have gotten much worse (though I needed first hand stories to jog my memory). This isn't a post to harp on Hugo Chavez, since that's neither here nor there, but it is amazing to hear about how my aunt has to search around day after day looking for milk. The source of this pain? Government price controls and other inefficient initatives... which is proof that capitalism would be a welcome addition to the country.

Anyways, my aunt is wise in that she has stocked up milk (powdered) to last her family for what I assume will be a few months, but I could barely believe her when she told me that she has been searching almost daily since October for milk and oil, two of the basic food staples that are difficult to find in Venezuela.

Hopefully this little story will help anyone reading this post realize how good we've got it in the U.S., even if oil prices are high, milk prices are going up, etc.

To read more on Venezuelan food shortages, click here or here.

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