Musings, Rants, and Random Thoughts

coordinates and street addresses

I’m heading out on a trip along the Oregon coast very soon and have been trying to make sure my GPS can find all of the hotels we’ve booked.  The problem is that many of them are just addresses along the highway.  That’s probably fine, but I know that, for instance, in Big Sur, there are addresses like “100 Highway 1” that won’t work at all.

Coordinates, however, are supported by my GPS.  But google maps does not convert the indicated address location into coordinates.  Or at least it doesn’t do so in an obvious way.

It turns out that if you select the link option after mapping a place, embedded in that link are the coordinates, though they aren’t formatted correctly and will likely need a bit of testing to make sure they’re right.  Rather frustrating and I think a bad feature to omit, but I guess I should be happy there is a workaround at all.

More google thoughts later…

The “let them fall” concept of macroeconomics

Last night, on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Peter Schiff was interviewed.  Schiff is an “economic commentator” (as compared to an economist?) and the head of a brokerage firm.  Stewart showed a number of clips of Schiff on CNBC prior to the current economic crisis warning of the dangers of the housing bubble, sub-prime mortgages, and over-leveraged companies and individuals.  These comments were made well in advance of the actual recognition of the situation and there is audio of people actually laughing while he is talking (I got the impression they were other guests of panel shows, not the moderators or CNBC folks themselves, but I cannot be sure).

At any rate, the gist of Schiff’s argument is that

  1. The government should have let companies fail.  No company is too big to fail.
  2. The market will dictate how things will fall out in the end, even if it means massive recession for now.  The market is strong.
  3. This is all because of how messed up things were, so let’s let the bad die out
  4. The government is just making things worse by intervening, and we might have hyperinflation.

In some ways, I find this very dangerous.  In others, thought-provoking.


the long and winding road indeed

NY Baking Examiner

A few years ago, I was bored and, like many others, I started googling to find some friends from high school (c’mon…admit it, you’ve done it too).  Obviously before Facebook made the world flat and small.

For some reason, whenever I looked for my friend (I say that with a weird feeling – I haven’t seen her in…11 years?) Bora Chang, I kept coming across someone who was writing articles for, I think, Sunset magazine.  About beauty products.  I couldn’t help but wonder how there could be such a highly visible other Bora Chang out there, and was certainly annoyed that it made it so hard to find my friend.

Turns out Bora Chang was…Bora Chang.  And now she’s doing freelance work for  So perhaps of all of us that graduated from high school between maybe 1995-1998 (wrapping around 1996, when I graduated), Bora might be the most published individual of all.

Kinda neat.  I know Bora Chang.  🙂

(when) should I start wearing a tie to work?

I’ve been wondering lately about whether I should start wearing a tie to work, or perhaps when in my career it would be appropriate to do so, if ever.  Please note that I work in academia, in administration (as compared to faculty) so it’s not the same as working in corporate.  And I’m in Silicon Valley, known for being a relatively laid-back work environment, in genera.

My motivations for asking myself this question are two fold.  The first is the obvious – formality, title, how I present myself, etc.  The second is a bit more subtle.  Every time I change jobs, I utilize clothing as one way to kind of “reinvent” myself.  When I first started working, shorts, t-shirts and sandals were fine.  Next job, I decided shorts weren’t quite right.  After that, I moved away from t-shirts.  Then it became polos or buttoned shirts only, though many of the latter were quite informal.  

When I came to Santa Clara, I switched over to dress shirts and nice (I hope) slacks every day.  I don’t wear jeans, I don’t wear even polo shirts.  It helped me feel like I had moved onto something different, and perhaps something more “official.”  

But I was meeting with someone yesterday whom I realized generally wears a tie.  At least, I can’t think of an example when I have met with him and he wasn’t wearing one.  It’s not a really fancy shirt with a really fancy tie, but there is certainly a different look.  

I wonder if there is some confluence of timing, events, title, etc that suggests I should start wearing a tie.  Random thoughts, I know.

Biz School @ 2 Years: Hitting the Wall?

I think I may have hit the wall after 2 years in the evening MBA program at Santa Clara University. 

Bear in mind that, as an evening program I, like many of my classmates, work all day long, then go to 1.5-3 hours of classes at night.  Generally we either go for 1.5 hours 4 nights a week or 3 hours 2 nights a week.  We then do homework on the nights in between and I generally dedicate one whole weekend day to make sure I get everything done.  I juggle a lot of things.

I started the program Spring 2007 so I am literally 2 years in.  I am just about finished, as well.  I decided to wait a bit to maximize my odds of taking the final class, dubbed Capstone, along with a group of people that would make a good team.  

For some reason, I am struggling far more this quarter than in previous ones.  Below 70% on one midterm (though exam percentage for the class is cumulative over 3 tests), about 80% on the true midterm (25% of grade) in my other class.  In both cases, I clearly knew the material but just didn’t focus enough on the test.  That’s a sign of being lazy and/or getting tired.  

I know it’s difficult to work and go to school (and run a business).  But I have handled it so far so I’m a bit surprised.  And while there is a part of me that is frustrated at not excelling, I am now worried about getting dual low-B’s…which means I need to be worried about the possibility of C’s.  

Hopefully things will pick back up in the Summer, when I take only one class, and then in the Fall when I’m hopefully rejuvenated from the Summer break.  But that’s a hope.

“living” with sleep apnea

I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a condition where, during the night, my throat/airway closes up and I stop breathing.  Usually, a person notices the obstruction, wakes up, coughs and falls asleep only after the airway has reopened.  

It is the frequency and duration of these obstructions that are the key.  Right now I’m at about 15 apneas, with up to 50 seconds “toleration.”  That means my body lets me go 50 seconds before it jumps me awake.  My blood-oxygen level also drops to 60% at it’s low point, but only 1-2 times a night (doctors usually get worried if it’s less than 95%).

I am not going to say how bad that is because I’m not up to date on what is “bad” or “really scary.”  But I do know that 2 years ago, during my last battery of tests, I was at 11 apneas and 25 seconds, with a blood/ox of 75%.  My very first test, in 1997, I had 0 apneas and a blood/ox low of 80%. 

As I said, I am not saying how bad of a trend this is, but I do know that I’m 30, and that many don’t experience the effects of apnea until they are significantly older.  So I’m kind of “starting” young on this one.  Young by most any standards (I’m 30 now, but when I was diagnosed I was 18).

I have always been torn about how significant to make my OSA sound. (more…)

where business and law schools meet…

Recently, I had a discussion with a student at Santa Clara University’s School of Law who is also pursuing an MBA at the Leavey School of Business.  There are only a few joint degrees at Santa Clara, and the JD/MBA is one of them.  However, to put it simply, it’s a bit haphazardly organized.  I believe that up to 6 units can be cross listed; the rest of each program has to be taken in its entirety.  That part is actually pretty standard as compared to other joint degree programs around the country.  What is a bit off is that it seems that for every student there is negotiation about which courses are credited across the two programs.  For one student, courses A and B are accepted by both schools.  For another student, it’s X and Y.  

More importantly, however, law students seem to be unsure about what classes to take to embellish their JD.  The MBA, presumably, will contribute to the education they are already receiving about law.  But while there are concentrations for MBA students (leadership, finance, etc), there isn’t anything like “classes a law student interested in intellectual property might want to take” guide.

Well, as I have made it through the MBA program and have taken a LOT of classes (2 years in, I’ll have done…I think 66 units out of 70 required), primarily in management, I have my own commentary about what classes at the business school might pique the interest of a law student. Because students can pursue so many different areas within the field of law, I’m going to focus on Intellectual Property and Social Justice, and follow this post up immediately with my “top 5 classes” which also contribute to the impact of a business education in conjunction with the law (for the most part).


looking for the right netbook

Until very recently, I have been very wary and circumspect of “netbooks.”  These are the ultra-small, RSI-inducing laptops such as the ASUS eeePC that are very light, have small screens, but are ultra, ultra, ultra portable.  As an aside, I find the name netbook hilarious.  Apparently my MacBook can’t access the net.  Hm.

99.9% of the time, my MacBook Pro 15″ is great.  Does everything I need, lets me virtualize machines (running Ubuntu and XP within OS X is very nice), and is a perfectly manageable weight with a good sized keyboard.  Netbooks have always felt incredible cramped, especially in terms of the keyboard, and the compromises made for the sake of size and weight are often innovative yet contrary to productivity (even something as simple as moving the right and left mouse buttons to save on space can be really unsettling when there is such a long-term prevailing paradigm).  I haven’t really seen the benefit of them.

However, when I am on a plane…I can see how the netbook really shines.  Presuming the keyboard is usable for 2-3 hours (even on long-haul flights I rarely work the entire 4-5 hours, much less 10+ flying internationally – there is only so long I can stare at spreadsheets or the same proposals without losing context) these can be really useful devices.  

Recently, I found the CTL 2go PC, which is not only netbook-sized  but also a convertible tablet PC.  It comes with pretty lame tablet functionality but one can install XP Tablet edition and it works quite well.  If I’m going to get a netbook, having one that does tablet would be pretty nice.  It also comes with a nice handle, battery life indicator, and a few other nice features.

However, the keyboard is tiny.  Really, really tiny.  I don’t think I could use it more than 30 minutes.  It is designed actually for children, so the size isn’t surprising, but it’s really a shame.  It’s also more expensive than other netbooks, which come in around $300.  The CTL is $500 base, then you add RAM and buy XP Tablet edition and you’re well over $600.  

Oh well…keep looking.

may I join you? I don’t think we’ve met. Hello, I am…

When I worked at Stanford, I can’t think of a single conference that I attended alone.  There was always one or two other Stanford colleagues there at over a dozen trips.  In addition, because of how I started at Stanford, where I got to know a lot of other people very quickly and then built upon that base over time, I often was attending those conferences with people I knew fairly well.

Now, for a number of reasons, I have gone to conferences on my own (the rest of the staff go to their conferences on their own, too, FWIW – it’s a lot to do with lack of redundancy in our small department, perhaps more so than budget issues).  The change in the dynamics when one is at a conference solo has been quite surprising.  

At just about every moment – during sessions, between sessions, at meals, at special events – I am asking people if I can join them, introducing myself, and perhaps even insinuating myself into existing groups and conversations.  Each time, I am working to remember names, jobs, schools, interests, and trying hard to make myself memorable, to offer something valuable in return, etc.  

At times, the groups that I am trying to “infiltrate” are cliques of people who have known and worked with each other through these conferences for years.  They have served as officers of the organization, presented together, etc.  They are not exclusive in the sense that they shun interactions from others (a la high school or something like that), but there is an undeniable “wall” that exists when a group of people know each other that well and you’re looking in from the outside.  It’s there, implicitly.  And it’s daunting to ignore that sensation, even if it is all in my head.  And overall, this is just simply tiring.

In reality, I am not really alone at these conferences – at each one, I have known people.  But they are often there with colleagues of their own. 

This is not one of my most articulate posts, but I am sitting here, in my hotel room, having retired earlier than I would like, having not gotten up the energy to break down the wall that I perceive in my head that holds me back from making that extra effort to say hello to people.

Consumerism – not such a bad thing

As I sit here getting ready to take my economics final exam, I am struck by a comment a friend of mine made the other day about our economy and our economic situation.  Essentially, his point was that what we needed to do was save more and spend less.  In other words, that it is our consumer-based economy that inevitably led us to at least some point of weakness.  His words were not that strong but I am distilling a bit here.

However, a consumption-based economy isn’t a bad thing unto  itself.  Yes, a low savings rate must be bolstered by some kind of government-based welfare system (Social Security) which does put a strain on earnings, but consumption can help fight off disinflation (which actually is an okay thing) but also certainly helps fight deflation or the threat thereof.  Even when our rate of consumption is low, we can still fight deflation (now, massive recession on top of low consumption is a different matter).  And high consumption also means payment of taxes, which means money to the government and local municipalities, and a stabilizing effect on the economy (it prevents it from overheating or going into recession for the most part).

The problem is how we fund this consumption.  For each person, it’s about whether we are borrowing in order to consume.  Are we using all credit card debt?  Taking out lines of credit on houses for which we already still have mortgages (and whose value then suddenly drops)?  For the government, the same applies – if we have a huge debt to foreign countries by selling bonds to them to fuel our economy, then we have ourselves in a precarious situation.

Selling bonds is a common way of funding deficit spending.  Because we have a current and potentially more big stimulus packages coming up (and the future ones will be all government spending, I bet, with little to no tax cuts (which is a good thing for stimulus, actually)), that means we are selling a lot of bonds.  When we sell bonds, we go into debt.  The biggest buyer of our bonds right now is China.  China has sent a “shot across our bow” about devaluing the dollar through the Fed “printing money” by selling even more bonds.  This dilutes the market, lowers the price of the bonds, we then have to sell more bonds to get the same amount of money, etc.

So the government is fueling its consumption – which we need – through debt as well.  But it was already deep in debt.  And just like a person who consumes through debt, already being in debt to start with just makes everything worse.  

But…a consumption-based economy isn’t bad unto itself…