Monthly Archives: April 2009

The big picture — VC Math, Life Threats, Rhythms

Random posts that have caught my eye recently:

* The VC Math Problem — excellent discussion of the “macroeconomics” of the VC asset class.
* What to fear. The truth about what is going to kill you. The sensationalist news stories every night on random acts of violence and tragedy are scary, but they aren’t the threat.
* The Rhythms of My Life. One guy’s methodology for examining his life and how he lives it. Not the right methodology for everyone, but everyone probably needs some methodology.

Goodbye Company Picnic

Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters: Goodbye Company Picnic. — the continuing transformation of Microsoft. Some of my fondest memories of the company are the events that allowed me to include family — the company picnic (the first one I went to in ’88 was kind of mindblowing for us), the holiday party (again mindblowing for the kids, the kids’ experience always makes me think of the donkey island bacchanalia scene from Disney’s Pinocchio), halloween. These events did as much to cement my loyalty to the company as 100 other benefits that the company did, they kept my family happy and positive about my job, despite the hours demanded of me. Quite a constrast from the more traditional work environment I came from prior to Microsoft.

Recent books — The Atrocity Archives, The Years, Pierre and Jean, Days Between Stations

* “The Atrocity Archives”:amazon by Charles Stross. Stross writes a good tale and this is a fine story, collision of witchcraft and information tech. It is one of Stross’s earliest works and a bit choppy in parts (was originally serialized I believe) but still adequate fun. Amazon gives this one 4.5 stars, I would tend a little lower — say 3.5 stars.
* “The Years”:amazon by Virginia Woolf. I guess I am not sophisticated enough for this book. I found it to be a shambling wreck. I didn’t care about the people, the times, the situation. The choppy style was unreadable. I gave up 1/4 of the way through. Amazon gives this 4.5 stars too tho with few user ratings, I would give it a 1 star. People are too enamored with the author’s name.
* “Pierre and Jean”:amazon by Guy de Maupassant. Sin, shame, betrayal, remorse, sacrifice, blame, loss, a bit of redemption. A great little story of human foibles and the prisons we make in our own minds. Unlike the Woolf above, I’d happily read another de Maupassant. Amazon says 4.5 stars, I’d agree.
* “Days Between Stations”:amazon by Steve Erickson. Pour yourself a big mug of absinthe and settle in with this one. Intriguing but strange. Amazon gives it 4.5 stars though not heavily reviewed. I’m probably a little lower but it is an intriguing book.

My current iPhone app setup — what am I missing?

On the first page, apps I use every day, multiple times:

* Some of the default Apple apps — Mail, Text, Calendar, Safari (all on the bottom row); Weather, Stocks, Maps, Camera, Calculator (a recent promotion back to the first page, the landscape mode scientific calculator is handy now that I am taking courses at UW again), Settings (purely to switch radio on/off for flights), Clock (for alarm and cooking timing), Phone.
* Facebook, Tweetie, Todo (synched with rememberthemilk for todo list management), Tripit (awesome for quick access to trip details — flight status, checkin codes, etc), WordPress for blogging, Amazon.com. OK Amazon is probably going to fall off soon, I don’t do that much ordering while on the iphone.
* 2 Across for nytimes crosswords, and Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars is fun tho the math in the game is kind of whack.

On the second page — apps that i need regular access to, or apps that I am trying out:

* App Store, Shazam (tagging music that I hear on the radio/etc), SmugShot (for access to my photos), MiGhtyDocs (google docs access)
* Kayak and Flight Update tho they are declining is use thanks to the Tripit app
* Pandora tho also declining in use as I am getting new music via other mechanisms
* Trying out: Yelp, Air Sharing, SimpleMindX, FS5 Hockey, FriendCast, fring.

On the third page — apps I keep around because I have to or because I need them occasionally:

* Apple default apps Notes, Contacts, Photos, iTunes, iPod, YouTube. Can’t delete them, they have to go somewhere
* Urbanspoon, GuitarToolkit — great apps but I don’t currently use that often. I tend to use google maps for finding restaurants instead of urban spoon
* Wine Guide, Starmap, Drinks Free, Clinometer, Remote, Google Earth, RTM, Snaptell. All interesting but I rarely find a reason to use. RTM is just not as good as the Todo app

On the fourth page — games that I liked at one point but that are basically ignored now:

* Tetris, Trism, Bejeweled 2. I’ll still play bejeweled every once in a while
* Vector Tanks, iShoot.
* Pb Dreams, Flick Bowling, Monkey Ball, XOFootball.
* Edge, touchPhysics, Koi Pond, Topple, Rolando, newtonica2. All cute.
* Black and White. Pretty poor Othello game.
* Dr. Awesome. Awesome actually.

Recent books — The Echelon Vendetta, Best AMerican Mystery Stores, Scoop

* “The Echelon Vendetta”:amazon by David Stone. Good thriller. Deeply damaged hero fighting for the good guys outside the law. And as typical the lines between good and bad, us and them, legal and illegal, are all vague and contradictory. Better than average airplane read.
* “The Best American Mystery Stories 2003″:amazon. Another one sitting on the shelf for a while obviously. I don’t typically read short stories but I have renewed admiration for the form. These authors do a great job of plunging you right in — great atmospheres, quick character studies. Fun stuff.
* “Scoop”:amazon by Evelyn Waugh. Never read anything by Waugh, this was an offbeat entry point. Farcical misadventure, a sedate country gentleman sent by mistake out as a foreign war correspondent. Some humour but I generally find farces a little wearing.

Polymer Circuits

Good basic article on polymer circuits. I need to learn more about charge transport in polymers, i have a basic understanding of charge transport in metals and semiconductors and ionic fluids, i don’t really understand polymers. Polymer circuits potentially a research area for my future course work.

…the group of psychopaths on Wall Street…

Dave Chen pointed me towards The Big Takeover, a great telling of the AIG story.

People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they’re not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’etat. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.

The crisis was the coup de grace: Given virtually free rein over the economy, these same insiders first wrecked the financial world, then cunningly granted themselves nearly unlimited emergency powers to clean up their own mess. And so the gambling-addict leaders of companies like AIG end up not penniless and in jail, but with an Alien-style death grip on the Treasury and the Federal Reserve — “our partners in the government,” as Liddy put it with a shockingly casual matter-of-factness after the most recent bailout.

Cassano, by contrast, was just a greedy little turd with a knack for selective accounting who ran his scam right out in the open, thanks to Washington’s deregulation of the Wall Street casino. “It’s all about the regulatory environment,” says a government source involved with the AIG bailout. “These guys look for holes in the system, for ways they can do trades without government interference. Whatever is unregulated, all the action is going to pile into that.”

The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

“But wait a minute,” you say to them. “No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what’s left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?”

But before you even finish saying that, they’re rolling their eyes, because You Don’t Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.