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

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

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.

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.

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?

Like what you see? Check out the rest of the blog here.

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?

Like what you see? Check out our blog, our website, and one of our founders!

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.

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.

Found something good? Please send it our way...

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?

Can't get enough of our blog? There's plenty more here!

Arts & Letters Daily:

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 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.

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

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.

Thoughts? Say them on the blog.

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.

Have you seen the rest of our blog?

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!