Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Federally Funded Stem Cell Research

I don't understand why people want the federal government to fund stem cell research. Some people are against federally-funded stem cell research for moral or religious reasons. I won't even get into that. I'm against it because I think it's a waste of tax-payer money. That's right, an absolute waste. Why? Because stem cell research is so promising.


Stem cell research has the potential to cure so many different diseases that pharmaceutical companies stand to reap a windfall from any significant discoveries. As such, there is clearly incentive and motivation for these companies to invest in research into stem cells with or without federal funds. Why should tax-payers foot the bill for the research that big pharma companies are willing to fund on their own?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality

So I woke up this morning thinking about life expectancy and infant mortality because, well, I'm a dork and that's the sort of stuff I think about first thing in the morning. Actually, I'm currently in the middle of reorganizing my office/library/guestroom and trying to recall a little factoid I read a while ago. I found it on page 139 of How We Know What Isn't So.

Many people are surprised to learn that relatively little of the
improvement in health and longevity during the last two hundred years is due to
drug and surgical treatment of sick individuals. Most of the gain is
attributable to various preventive measures such as improved sewage disposal,
water purification, the pasteurization of milk, and improved diets. In
fact, our greater longevity is mainly due to our increased chances of surviving
childhood, chances increased by these very preventive measures and by the
introduction of vaccines for the infectious diseases of youth. The life
expectancy of those who make it to adulthood has not changed much during the
last hundred years. The life expectancy of a 45-year-old man in the
nineteenth century was roughly 70 years, a figure not much different from that
of today.

I would have never independently come up with decreased infant mortality as the primary driver for increased life expectancy, but after hearing the postulate, it's impossible to forget. This factoid is one of the most counter-intuitive and surprising things I've read in a long time. If any of you have a similar interesting factoid, please share it with me!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Advice Needed from my Stanford Classmates

What should I do with all of my business school documents? I've got 4 boxes full of business school cases, presentations, and notes that I haven't looked at in years. I don't really want to throw it out but it is taking up a lot of room in my condo. I was thinking of buying a sheet-fed scanner and just scanning everything to PDF files but that seems like such a waste of time. What have you guys done with all that stuff?

More Celebrity Sightings!

I'm still stuck in the VH-1 80s special. On my flight back to LAX from JFK yesterday, I was sitting behind none other than Tony Danza! Of course I didn't realize it was him until we were both walking through LAX and a fan shouted, "Hey look, it's Tony Danza!" For some strange reason, he shouted back, "Hey look, it's a moron!" I thought he was kidding but kept pace and eavesdropped on his conversation with his travel companion and turns out (a) it really was Tony Danza and (b) he wasn't kidding. Jerk.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Problem with Amazon.com

I love amazon.com. I probably spend about $1,000 a year on amazon, not couting big ticket purchases like fancy camera lenses. However, I HATE the so-called personalized recommendations. From what I can tell, they basically take the last 3 books you bought and pick titles that sound like it. For example, I bought the Rosetta Stone CD-ROMs for Mandarin. One of the suggestions that popped up is for the Rosetta Stone Japanese package. HOW MANY FREAKIN' LANGUAGES DOES AMAZON THINK I'M TRYING TO LEARN AT ONE TIME?!?!?

Also, I have read every book written by Mark Bowden and believe I have bought all of them through amazon.com. Same thing with Michael Lewis (except that sappy "Coach" book he came out with last year). Wouldn't you think I'd like to know when one of those guys publishes a new book? Turns out Michael Lewis does have a new book out. I found out the other night while shopping at Barnes and Noble. And why don't the recommendations come right up on the home page. Who cares about kitchenware? Considering I've cooked 2 meals in the past year, certainly not I. (That being said, I really do like cooking but don't have the time anymore with my new job.)

Amazon should just go out and buy NetFlix and incorporate their recommendation algorithm. The more I think about it, the more that combination makes sense. Maybe for a fixed fee each month, you can have a book mailed to you. After you're done with it, you mail it back. I mean, who rereads books anyways? Certainly not me.

Rumsfeld's Only Mistake

Now I know many people are thinking, "What do you mean ONLY? There were so many!" I'm not going to argue how many mistakes Rumsfeld made but I will say there is one decision that would have dramatically changed how Rumsfeld is viewed today.

Before I get started, let me offer a caveat. I'm by no means an expert on Iraq, politics, the White House, military doctrine or anything else beside perhaps digitally editing movie posters to add my friends faces. I've never even watch a full episode of the Daily Show or The O'Reilly Factor. However, I've probably read over 20 books on those subjects over the past 5 years. Without further adeau here are my thoughts on Rumsfeld.

First, I'd like to congratulate Rumsfeld on what I think was his biggest accomplishment: one that I believe is widely overlooked and will truly change the world forever -- transformation. Can anyone even tell me what transformation is? Basically, transformation is a military strategy that says a tiny force (by military standards) can accomplish a great deal. Iraq is perhaps the greatest military victory in modern warfare. Basically, a force of 150,000 or so defeated a force of over 1 million. (Editor's note: Pizarro's 200 conquistadors defeat of 80,000 Incas is probably the greatest military victory of all time). I believe the success of the traditional war in Iraq is the biggest event in military history since the two atomic bombs ended World War II.

Which leads us to the mistake: the debaathification of Iraq. For those of you who don't know, the Baathist Party was Saddam Hussein's ruling political party. Put crudely, the Nazi party was to Hitler what the Baath Party is to Hussein (or as some might say, the Republican party is to George W. Bush). Anyhow, almost everyone with any sort of power in Iraq was in the Baath party. I bet a lot of them didn't even like Hussein but had to be in the party in order to get ahead in life. All of these people were prohibited from participating in the new government and many of them suddenly became blacklisted from everything. So what you have is a bunch of formerlly educated, rich, and powerful people now with nothing to do but form insurgencies. While I do believe that many insurgents are punks and thugs, there are bound to be many, MANY formerly-respectable people who joined the Baath party for pragmatic reasons who are now part of the insurgency. This situation should have been foreseen and is absolutely inexcuseable.

As all of you readers know, I'm about as pro-USA as they come. That doesn't mean I support every US policy blindly and naively. I'm glad Rumsfeld resigned and I'm glad he didn't do it BEFORE the election. While I generally vote Republican, separation of power is a good thing. Now how do we get McCain-Lieberman elected in 2008?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Celebrity Sightings

I generally don't run into too many celebrities but Sunday was quite the exception. I was in the security screening line at LAX when I spotted a lanky guy with long curly hair who looked like a recording superstar but I wasn't sure. I spent the next few minutes trying to read his bording pass and drivers license to no avail when suddenly, another guy approached him and said, "Thanks for being on my show this weekend!" Growing up in Los Angeles in the 80s, I recognized the voice immediately. It was none other than Mr. Disco Duck himself, Rick Dees. That pretty much confirmed the first guy was in fact who I thought it was: Weird Al Yankovic.

If that wasn't Weird enough, I ran into Angela Lansbury in the lobby of my hotel! I felt like I was in some VH1 special about the 80s.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Open Letter to My Male Single Friends

Dear [name of male single friend] --

The fact that I'm now married doesn't mean I'm willing to jump on your grenades. Yes, the married guy makes the perfect wing man (nothing to gain = nothing to lose and fearlessness is generally considered to be the single most important attribute for a wing man) but that logic only works if you need help meeting the girl in the first place. If you have known her for a few years and know that she's got a terribly boring roommate, for heaven's sake don't be bringing the boring roommate out to dinner with us! For that matter, don't be bringing the girl you're interested in if you know I'm not bringing my wife! Look, I'm a dork. I realize this. I like spending my free time talking about business and politics and sports. If I've invited out to dinner, unless we were in the same fraternity in college, chances are I'm going to want to discuss these topics, not make small talk with girls I have nothing in common with. Do you know any girl who would be interested in talking about those things? You do? Fine. Marry her and start jumping on your own damn grenades!

I'm back!

I'm back -- both literally and literarily. Seems I've accomplished what I sent out to do in Shanghai and now I'm awaiting my next assignment. I spent my last few days in Shanghai packing up the apartment and shipping everything back. Of course, I made the obligatory stop by my favorite DVD store and went nuts. The guy at the store saw me eyeing the Oscar box set which had every best picture ever for US$100. I'm still not 100% convinced these aren't illegal copies (wink, wink) so I decided to limit myself to bringing in 80 discs which meant no Oscar Party. I decided to pick up every epidsode of South Park instead.

I was able to order lunch unassisted yesterday which was the first time I've been able to do so in about a month. It's the small things in life you miss the most. After a 3 week camping trip in Nambia I took back in 2004, I was quite surprised that what I missed the most was flipping on a light switch.

I'll try to post a few more thoughts in the next few days as a lot of weird stuff has happened to me in the last few days. Heck, I could write for days just about my cousin's eccentric wedding last weekend! Stay tuned....

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