1.01.2005

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» MISC: The best part of OSCAR has nothing to do with awards
» MISC: What do immigrants and entrepreneurs have in common?
» TIP: When you suspect you are not a genius
» TIP: How we deny ourselves of success
» RANT: Is the housing market trying to tell us something?
» RANT: How we work more to accomplish less
» MISC: Good things come in small packages
» RANT: Caught on the 'five year' question
» MISC: Sick days, Coffee, Jokes
» TIP: Trees, Rivers, and Leadership

MISC: The best part of OSCAR has nothing to do with awards

via About - Winners of Sunday night's Oscars goodie-bags, typically valued at over $100,000, had better not try any stunts or costumes to avoid paying income tax on them, warns the IRS. The gifts, often valued at over $100,000 are taxable income and must be reported, warns IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

"As the world watches the glamour and glitz of the Academy Awards, it's important to keep in mind that movie stars face the same tax obligations as ordinary Americans," said Everson in a press release. "We want to make sure the stars 'walk the line' when it comes to these goodie bags... We just want to make sure no one crashes into the tax code"...


via OttawaSun - The Academy Awards as a whole are a rather tiresome affair. They've always been more about a few fun moments sandwiched between a bunch of serious stuff not that many people care about. Still, it's hard to stay away.

Seriously, did you see... And what was with the gross colour of J-Lo's dress? In that spirit, here are few highlights...

MOST ANNOYING AUDIO DECISION, EVER: Adding music to acceptance speeches. Since anyone who's seen the Oscars associates music with prompting the winner to wrap it up, it was, you know, sort of distracting...

CUTEST, LUCKIEST COUPLE I WANT TO HATE BUT CAN'T: Brokeback's Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams. Finding your soul mate, having a baby and snagging twin Oscar nominations, all from one movie? C'mon!

EARLIEST TEARS OF THE EVENING: Felicity Huffman, who welled up during the red carpet pre-show while watching a tape of her Desperate Housewives co-stars wishing her luck. "Thank you, you ruined my makeup," she told her interviewer.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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MISC: What do immigrants and entrepreneurs have in common?

via TheMonkAndTheRiddle - ...Both grand-parents left their homelands for a new and unknown world. It was a courageous bet on a vision, simple faith. I see a common gene among immigrants and entrepreneurs who strike out from the pack to pursue their dreams. I admire people who are willing to bet everything on a belief. Some of these risk takers, whether immigrants or entrepreneurs, have a profound impact on what happens in the world. They place bets on the future, often against fantastic odds. I see heroism in that... -RandyKomisar

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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TIP: When you suspect you are not a genius

StudyGS - you can use the same strategies as Aristotle and Einstein to harness the power of your creative mind and better manage your future.
  • Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives that no one else has taken (or no one else has publicized!) Leonardo da Vinci believed that, to gain knowledge about the form of a problem, you begin by learning how to restructure it in many different ways. He felt that the first way he looked at a problem was too biased. Often, the problem itself is reconstructed and becomes a new one.
  • Visualize! When Einstein thought through a problem, he always found it necessary to formulate his subject in as many different ways as possible, including using diagrams. He visualized solutions, and believed that words and numbers as such did not play a significant role in his thinking process.
  • Produce! A distinguishing characteristic of genius is productivity. Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis found that the most respected scientists produced not only great works, but also many "bad" ones. They weren't afraid to fail, or to produce mediocre in order to arrive at excellence.
  • Make novel combinations. Combine, and recombine, ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual. The laws of heredity on which the modern science of genetics is based came from the Austrian monk Grego Mendel, who combined mathematics and biology to create a new science.
  • Form relationships; make connections between dissimilar subjects Da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water. This enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves. Samuel Morse invented relay stations for telegraphic signals when observing relay stations for horses.
  • Think in opposites Physicist Niels Bohr believed, that if you held opposites together, then you suspend your thought, and your mind moves to a new level. His ability to imagine light as both a particle and a wave led to his conception of the principle of complementarity. Suspending thought (logic) may allow your mind to create a new form.
  • Think metaphorically Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, and believed that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.
  • Prepare yourself for chance Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing something else. That is the first principle of creative accident. Failure can be productive only if we do not focus on it as an unproductive result. Instead: analyze the process, its components, and how you can change them, to arrive at other results. Do not ask the question "Why have I failed?", but rather "What have I done?"

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: How we deny ourselves of success

Brandon Hull blogged
  • We lack concentration. We think we can wing our way through crucial moments in work and life. Rather than translate experience into expertise, we let it translate into bad habits.
  • We don't seek to improve our technical skills, let alone our people skills and attitudes. We're satisfied with where we're at in life, especially if improvement won't come easy.
  • We surround ourselves with the wrong influences. People with no ambition, no goals, no optimism, nothing positive to contribute.
  • We expect people to cater to us, or give us things...
  • We're just too proud. We don't seek advice, guidance, input, or even casual suggestions from others. We think we can go it alone forever.
  • We don't put in enough time. We slip into a mediocre, half-hearted routine, and we lack the self-discipline and achievement drive to stick to successful, daily habits.
  • We have no inspiring, internalized reasons for wanting to be successful. We move as the carrot and stick dictate. Or, our stated reasons aren't compelling enough to cause daily behaviors.
  • When we don't hit our objectives, we too quickly point to external reasons or place blame on someone besides ourselves
  • We've got our ladder against the wrong wall. Either we're in the wrong position, the wrong company, or the wrong industry. And we ignore all the signs that it's a bad fit.
  • We're not willing to "endure to the end." We get fired up for a short period of time, but then flame out.
  • Most tragic of all: we don't want to succeed. We're willing to settle for mediocrity.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

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RANT: Is the housing market trying to tell us something?

via WSJ - New-home sales fell in January and the number of unsold homes on the market rose to nearly a 10-year high, signaling continued cooling in the housing market... Many economists were surprised by the January decline, having anticipated that unseasonably warm weather last month would boost sales, much as it had stimulated big jumps in housing starts, retail sales and construction. Instead, sales in the Northeast, South and Midwest all dropped more than 10% from December, overshadowing an 11.3% rise in the West. Rising interest rates and lower levels of mortgage applications in recent weeks have further darkened the outlook.

Still, January's sales rate was 3.3% higher than a year ago, and yesterday's report was viewed as the latest evidence that the housing market is undergoing a gradual slowdown rather than a sharp freefall. The new-home sales report weighed on the stocks of major home builders. On a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced, the share prices of Toll Brothers Inc., Ryland Group Inc., KB Home, Centex Corp. and Beazer Homes USA Inc. all lost ground.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Something vs Nothing > Signal vs Noise

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RANT: How we work more to accomplish less

via News.Yahoo - Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research... The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say. "Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically,"... "We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something." Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed...

A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent. "We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down,"

Expectations that technology would save time and money largely haven't been borne out in the workplace... "It just increases the expectations that people have for your production,"... Even if productivity increases, it's constantly outpaced by those expectations... "The irony is the very expectation of getting more done is getting in the way of getting more done," he said. "People are stressed out."...

Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who micro-manage and longer commutes all add to the problem, they said, while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left.

Finally, there's a trend among companies to measure job performance like never before, said Challenger. "There's a sense that no matter how much I do, it's never enough," he said.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Opportunity vs Trap

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MISC: Good things come in small packages

via ScientificAmerican -- Small acts that create immediate pleasures can add up to long-term satisfaction. Personal happiness has two components: short-lived/immediate and long-term/habitual. Short term pleasures create a stirring of emotions that psychologists refer to as positive affect. Most individuals underestimate the power this factor can have in both their private and professional lives...

One extravagant annual company picnic does not create a healthy working environment; it takes many immediate, smaller happy moments to achieve this atmosphere...

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > When Less is More

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RANT: Caught on the 'five year' question

I've never been a big fan of job interviews, Comedy Writer Jay Pinkerton blogged. I know some people who actually thrive on them, booking interviews for jobs they don't even want to "stay sharp." Their actions are meant to inspire me, I assume, and in a way they do--by knowing them, I've learned how grating overachievers can be. It exhausts me just watching them. I've always treated interviews as a necessary evil -- a brief period of time where I sit in front of someone and try to get him to believe outlandish, bald-faced lies.
  • "What are your goals?" Not working at a desk job for the rest of my life in a floundering economy'd be super, but what are you going to do?
  • "What do you see as your biggest weakness?" I'm passive-aggressive and commitment-phobic. And sometimes I steal office supplies.
  • "What excited you most about this opportunity?" That you called me and seemed interested in paying me sums of money.

While these answers can be helpful in an introspective sense, I doubt they're the answers my potential employers are looking for, and so I usually try to shovel up as much sunshine-flavored rainbow dribble that I can think of. "What excited you most about this opportunity," thus, I could easily turn into a ten minute blowjob. Gosh, what didn't excite me? The chance for advancement! The opportunity to expand my skills in a nurturing and fast-paced environment! The color of the doorknobs! Your tie, sir! This evidently gets the job done, as the interviewers usually happily scratch something on a pad and proceed to the next question... Interviews are a lot like video games, basically, with the big boss monster at the end of every level that, if you beat, means you move up a level to do battle with the next boss monster. I'd moved up to the second boss monster in the interviews I'd been going to. The first one had gone pretty well. The second one was a bit more of a disaster.

I don't know if I was just off my game or rusty at interviews or what, but I couldn't seem to buy a break. When I was serious it turned out he was being facetious. If I tried a joke he misconstrued what I meant. The worst was the inevitable "Where do you see yourself at this company in five years?" ...Usually by the time the "five years" question comes up I know what the company's about, what the interviewer's about, and what they wnat to hear -- so they hear it. This guy'd given me nothing. I immediately blanked trying to figure out how best to answer it. Seven seconds later, I'm still blanking. Seven seconds becomes ten. Becomes eleven. I realize with dawning horror that I've officially crossed the cut-off point of polite silence. I have to say something, or in two seconds it will officially become awkward and then he'll have to say something...

At the end of the interview, as I walked out the door, I debated whether or not to make a light joke about the "five years" question. An hour'd easily passed since then without any slip-ups. Should I roll the dice and hope we could have a quick laugh about it? Would it look weak, like I was apologizing? Would pretending it'd never happened be easier? Or would he appreciate the candor? Now that the interview was over, would we be able to share a knowing smile at my momentary brain-freeze? Was this even a safe bet, given that all previous attempts at levity had been misconstrued? Fuck it, I'd bring it up. It was already out there, so I wouldn't lose anything mentioning it -- and I might gain at least a thin sliver of casual chumminess with him, which to my mind had been the major downfall of the interview anyway. Getting any kind of human response from him would seem like a win.

"I always get caught on that 'five year' question," I say, giving a low mock-chuckle and shaking my head, as if this was some sort of interview beartrap that I stepped in daily. I'm hoping he'll give an entry point -- a quizzical look, maybe; or an "Oh? Why is that?" Then I can make a light joke about how it's a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't question -- sort of breaks the fourth wall of the interview a little, so we can at least share a moment or two as human beings before the elevator arrives. "Well, it's always important to have goals," he responds. Damn. We shake hands and I leave. Shut down. In a fairly humiliating way too. Somehow we'd managed to leave it under the assumption that I'd floundered on the question because I evidently possess no goals. Hmm. I guess that works too.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want

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MISC: Sick days, Coffee, Jokes

via RD - One of the workers on my construction crew didn't show up for work on Monday, and he didn't phone to explain his absence. On Tuesday morning, though, he did call. "I won't be able to make it to work today," he said, "or yesterday."

The chef of the upscale restaurant I manage collided with a waiter one day and spilled coffee all over our computer. The liquid poured into the processing unit, and resulted in some dramatic crackling and popping sounds. After sopping up the mess, we gathered around the terminal as the computer was turned back on. "Please let it work," pleaded the guilt-ridden waiter. A waitress replied, "Should be faster than ever. That was a double espresso."

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Jokes

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TIP: Trees, Rivers, and Leadership

I'm fascinated by the parallels between nature, man and business, Marketing author Sam Decker blogged. Take, for example, the recurring natural theme of tributaries and branching You see this in rivers, branches, our nervous system, our blood system, lung alveoli, and so forth. What are the common characteristics of Tributaries?

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: There is a solid foundation from which the depth, breadth and strength of the branches are determined.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: Culture is driven from the top. The stronger the winning culture, the bigger, larger, wider, and more prevelant the branches of growth.

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: Branches follow a natural path, the path of least resistance or most opportunity for growth. Branches on trees grow up towards the sun. Rivers flow where there is gravity.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: First, people should do the jobs they were made for. Each person has unique gifts and core competencies. Their 'branch' will be largest if they go with this gravity. Second, business initiatives are most successful when the execute towards the sun...be it the customer or their core competency, or both.

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: The branches strengthen the base. As branches grow, it allows the base to expand, roots to stretch, and become a stronger tree.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: Hire A players that will hire A+ players. Great employees make the managers better. A company is built as much bottom up as it is top town...actually, more so.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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