Friday, December 26, 2008

Crossfit

Here's my latest adventure in the fitness domain: crossfit. I love the intensity as well as the varied nature of the workouts. Its emphasis on functional movement really makes a lot of sense to me now as I get older (and hopefully wiser). Really, what's the point of trying to have a 400 pound bench? It's more useful to have strength that you can apply, which crossfit really gives you with its mix of gymnastic movements and powerlifting. I've found a pretty good article on it, and I can assure you that the title, Sweat Storm, is very applicable.

I've been somewhat hit or miss with this due to the busy schedule, but the nice thing is that many workouts are in the 20 minutes or less range (but still very high intensity). I haven't had the discipline to simultaneously change my food intake, so I'm not losing weight with this, but that can come after the MBA. For now I need something just to maintain a basic level of fitness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bailout

Comment one of my UT investment professors mailed out about the bailout:
I’ve got a plan to solve this whole financial crisis. We should put together a $700 billion hedge fund and let it overpay for securities. We should have Congress oversee this hedge fund because they have a record of financial expertise

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not to pat myself on the back...

...but you heard it here first!

PETROLEUM ($/bbl)

PRICE*CHANGE% CHANGETIME
Nymex Crude Future88.59.78.8919:08
Dated Brent Spot83.40-4.97-5.6310/06
WTI Cushing Spot87.81-6.07-6.4710/06

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What is love?

I can't get this story out of my head. The incredible neglect of a daughter by her mom is just so unimaginable. I think now having a daughter myself, I have even a stronger reaction to that. But even though it makes for a very depressing story, there is something incredibly positive too in the love and sacrifice that her new foster family has made in taking her in. The whole thing makes your heart break.

First he saw the girl's eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn't looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked — except for a swollen diaper.

"The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high," the detective said. "The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs.
...
She wouldn't make eye contact. She didn't react to heat or cold — or pain. The insertion of an IV needle elicited no reaction. She never cried. With a nurse holding her hands, she could stand and walk sideways on her toes, like a crab. She couldn't talk, didn't know how to nod yes or no. Once in a while she grunted.
...
Armstrong called the girl's condition "environmental autism." Danielle had been deprived of interaction for so long, the doctor believed, that she had withdrawn into herself.
...

Bernie, 48, remodels houses. Diane, 45, cleans homes. They have four grown sons from previous marriages and one together. Diane couldn't have any more children, and Bernie had always wanted a daughter. So last year, when William was 9, they decided to adopt.

Their new daughter would have to be younger than William, they told foster workers. But she would have to be potty-trained and able to feed herself. They didn't want a child who might hurt their son, or who was profoundly disabled and unable to take care of herself.

...

Diane called Bernie over. He saw the same thing she did. "She just looked like she needed us."

Bernie and Diane are humble, unpretentious people who would rather picnic on their deck than eat out. They go to work, go to church, visit with their neighbors, walk their dogs. They don't travel or pursue exotic interests; a vacation for them is hanging out at home with the family. Shy and soft-spoken, they're both slow to anger and, they say, seldom argue.

They had everything they ever wanted, they said. Except for a daughter.


Well, that's just to give you a taste. It's long, so I was trying to capture it in excerpts, but it just isn't doing it justice. It's worth your time. It almost made ME cry.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More of the same...

Plano (closest major suburb/city to us. It's about the same size as Sacramento) is the best place in America to build wealth.

Forbes rates Collin County (our county) the 14th best county in America in which to raise a family, edging out Marin County at #15.

Business Week rates the best and worst cities for pay, cost of living adjusted, in various disciplines. Dallas is near the top of virtually every job type. Slides 12 and 17-19 are of particular interest to our family.

Forbes rates Dallas the tenth best recession-proof city.

Some cost of living comparisons with other cities of interest, all done using $100K base (so you can easily see % difference) in Plano. Following the link will let you see what areas comprise the difference, often housing is the prime suspect.
Sacramento: $123k (to equal a $100k salary in Plano)
Denver: $102k
Salt Lake City: $100k
Seattle: $116k
Northern VA: $141k
SF: $171k!
Dayton: $94k

CNN just named Texas the top state for business for 2008.

From the San Antonio BizJournal:
CNBC Inc. ranked Texas as the best all-around state economy and the No. 1 state to do business in America in 2008.

Texas boasts over half of the nation's new jobs created in the past 12 months, and has added over 1.2 million net new jobs in the past five years, more than any other state.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More on oil

I believe we are in the midst of a general commodities bubble and that oil prices specifically will come back down, despite all the doom and gloom you currently hear. Much of that talk sounds very similar to the "it's different this time" talk of the tech boom and the housing boom. Here's an article that pretty much says what I'm thinking. Note that I don't believe we will go back to gas being less than $1 a gallon, only that I doubt we will be staying above $4. However, unlike the stock market, it will take a while for this situation to correct, more similar to the housing market, so it could be a while before things level out. And, as Jeff correctly pointed out in an earlier comment, it is impossible to predict exactly when a bubble will burst, but I believe it is possible to identify that you are in a bubble.

Here's some things that will likely be changing and impacting oil prices (some of this is in the aforementioned article also).
1) Weak dollar. I expect US monetary policy will move towards a more sound dollar, making oil worth less dollars/gallon.
2) In normal free market situations, as profits rise in an industry, new entrants are attracted to those profits and find ways to do things differently and more efficiently or at least source more of the desired item so that they can gain some of the profit. This should be happening in the oil industry. A variety of regulations make this difficult, but eventually these hurdles will be crossed. You probably hear a lot surrounding drilling in ANWR in regards to this topic, but oil shale in the west seems like a bigger story. Some of these options, like shale, require a higher price of oil/barrel than the $40 we used to be at, but settling down around $80/barrel would still make the new investments lucrative and be a significant decrease from where we are now. Also, refinery capacity is going to have to increase. All of these things take time.
3) We are seeing shifts in demand. While small, these trends are actually likely to widen over time. Technological innovation will shift not only to alternate fuels, but also to greater efficiencies with what we have now. As the original article explains, slight adjustments in demand can actually have a large effect on price.

In the end, who knows. Regardless of the price of oil, it doesn't hurt any of us to figure out ways to use less energy, for no other reason than it's nice to save money, even if it ends up being less savings than it is right now. My family was into buying higher mpg cars back when gas was less than a buck a gallon. A good dose of cheapness so often exceeds today's environmental fads.

** Update 7/1/2008 **
A couple more interesting links on the same topic:

Some interesting graphs from the WSJ. I especially like the one at the bottom overlaying the recent oil runup to the stock boom.

Article from Barron's saying oil may be back to $100/barrel by the end of the year!

Equal Opportunity to be Wrong

Obama has come out in favor of a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Number 1, it is idiotic for the government, the least efficient entity in the history of man, to decide how much profit someone should make for doing something. On what basis is such a decision even made? Many tech companies would suffer to have as LOW of a profit margin as Exxon-Mobil's 10.85%. Check out Microsoft's latest number, 28.33%. In fact, of the 529 companies with a market cap greater than or equal to $10B listed on US stock exchanges, there are 247 with profit margins of 11% or more. Apparently 47% of our largest companies should be subjected to a windfall profits tax. I hesitate to even make that remark sarcastically; that will probably be the next plank of the Democratic party platform. Also, for anyone who complains about the fact that Exxon-Mobil has the largest sheer profit of any company in history, that just reveals economic ignorance. They are one of the largest companies in history, so if they make any kind of a decent return, of course they have a very large overall profit number. As you can see from the previous links, plenty of companies get away with taking more from customers on a percentage basis. Number 2, a tax on oil company profits serves only as a disincentive to produce more oil. If the reason oil prices are so high is that current demand outstrips current supply...how are things improved by further inhibiting supply?

Now let's move on to McCain. He proposed, with Hillary no less, a moratorium on the federal gas tax for the summer. We all know I virtually never oppose reducing taxes any way possible, but I have a hard time making sense of this one either. Removing taxes on an item has the obvious effect of lowering prices. Businesses lower prices to stimulate demand. If the reason oil prices are so high is that current demand outstrips current supply...how are things improved by a temporary stimulation of more demand?

*It looks like the numbers I'm feeding into the google stock screener above have reset, so you'll have to re-enter the appropriate date if you want to see the number of companies for yourself. Obviously the number vares slightly over time as companies' valuations change. With the recent losses, we now have 20-some fewer companies with a market cap above $10B.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Stimulus?

This is an old article, but I thought it appropriate to call out as we are just now receiving our "stimulus" checks.

In this world of ours, those resources going to the rebate recipients don't come from the Tooth Fairy. They have to come from workers and producers. If the resources come from workers and producers who thereby receive less for their work than they otherwise would have received, won't they in turn spend less? Of course they'll spend less, and the people who now supply them with less will also spend less, and so on down the line.

As my former colleague and friend Milton Friedman liked to say, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," and this rebate is exactly what he meant. The net effect is that the reduction in demand from those who pay the real resources will be exactly the same size as the increase in demand from the rebate recipients. It's sad but true. Income effects always net to zero in a closed system.

To see this point from a more generic standpoint, if the price of apples rises, it is true that apple growers are better off. Their income effects go way up, and they can spend more. But apple consumers are worse off because their incomes go down by the exact same amount, and they have to spend less.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Emily Translator

Ba: Ball
Ba Ba: Baby (now also occasionally actually pronounced BAY-BE)
Ba Ba Ba: Banana (sometimes just abbreviated ba-ba. You really have to pay attention to context.)
Da Da (occasionally even Da-DEE): as far as I can tell, this is either Melinda or me.
Do (pronounced dough): said whenever she sees, hears, or thinks about a dog. Will often be said excitedly over and over for several minutes.
Dis (followed by pointing): This. Means she wants something, or wants you to notice something, or who knows?
Mo mo (with sign language for more): usually equals GIVE ME THAT FOOD!

And a quick update, Emily still isn't exactly walking, but she is taking two or three steps between things to hold on to, so I think it is just a matter of time now.

MBA update

I have been tremendously busy between the MBA and my new management role at work, so I never got the detailed info on my Vietnam trip published on here. However, we did just have to do a presentation on Vietnam for class, so I leave you with a few of the links that I used. We focused on starting a business in Vietnam, and I was responsible for the section on Raising Capital/Capital Markets and the conclusion. From peer reviews (i.e., we still don't have the professors' scores which actually determine the real grade), we had the highest score in the class.

Getting up to date info was a real challenge, since the laws in Vietnam are constantly changing.

Check out the Vietnam stock index, and how it has cratered over the last few months.

This article from early 2007 shows how they were in bubble behavior.

Very helpful report from the World Bank, though it was somewhat outdated, being from 2006.

One last article on raising capital.

More on the stock market madness.

Final note is that I was amazingly comfortable presenting in front of the class. I think the preaching I did a few times in California really took care of that. The only little bit of nervousness I did have was because we had to hit 15 minutes in presentation time, and given that I went last, I had to manage whichever way time went awry. Ended up being no problem. We banged out a lot of practice and were fairly polished.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Texas news

DFW is number one in population growth.

Texas has record low unemployment.

Follow me to job paradise! Don't stick around after I leave somewhere though. Our old house in Sac got foreclosed on at the end of last year and is now re-listed for $110k less than we sold for. Yikes!

Monday, March 03, 2008

I can't really concentrate enough to say anything coherent, so I thought I would use my time to throw out a few interesting links I've come across.

A map that shows what country each US state's GDP corresponds to. Gives you a feel for how mammoth our economy really is.

The moral sense test.

Leading in times of transition.

Hmmm...apparently I haven't really been saving a lot of interesting links.

ugh

We are completely wiped out by either a bug or food poisoning here, with only Emily unaffected. Melinda and I got sick at almost the exact same time yesterday, which led me to believe it was something we ate. I have managed to keep down a few crackers so far today, but I still feel terrible and am now running a fever over 100. This is incredibly unhelpful to me, as I have a ton of work I need to do for my MBA over the next few days.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Well, a lot has changed since my last post.

- I finished my first semester of my MBA (grades were decent, but did not achieve my personal goal of straight A's). But overall not bad for someone who has been out of school for 8 years and also has a family and a full-time job.
- Speaking of which, I got a new job. I am now the manager of a 10-person team of engineers, still in the same division at HP. I had 5 individual interviews and one panel interview in the same week as I was studying for my MBA finals. A bit exhausting.
- I went on my Vietnam international trip. I want to do a post for each day so that I can have something to reference and so you can have close to my full experience. However, I need to do that quickly before I forget everything but I am still recovering from my 36-hour journey back and the resulting massive jetlag, while also returning to my new job where I have to quickly bang out performance reviews this week and also do all my prep work for the first week of second semester MBA. So probably won't get to this before the weekend.