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Archive for December, 2007

It’s here

Well, it took me five days to film it, edit it, compile and finish it but I got it done.  It is my fifth installment of my end of year Magic Clips video.

Check it out, I think it’s my best one yet.

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Way back in 2002, when I was traveling in Australia and staying in Melbourne with a friend of mine, I had some orange juice that had calcium added.  It was okay, but I thought that the taste was rather odd.

Over the next few years, I occasionally had orange juice with calcium added.  It wasn’t very often, but I got a pretty good "feel" for the taste, enough such that I decided that I was going to avoid it whenever I could.  It adds a very distinct flavour to the juice and it is one that I don’t like.

Well, last week, I was shopping in the grocery store and I picked up some orange juice.  It was the store brand, which was a little cheaper than the Minute Maid stuff which I generally get.  When I got home and tried it the next morning, I was taken aback at the foul flavor populating my mouth.

"Yuck, what is this?" I said.  I looked at the expiration date on the juice and it was fine.  I tried another swig and had the same taste.  Is it the store-brand stuff, I thought to myself.  No, it couldn’t be, I bought store-brand (Safeway) before and it tasted perfectly fine.  Wait, maybe that was at Fred Meyer where I got store brand before and this is Safeway.  Different store, ergo, different taste.

No, I was pretty sure I had bought Safeway brand orange juice before.  I inspected the contents of the juice box.  It said it had added calcium.  That explained it.  My old nemesis, Calcium, was back to get me.  There are some kinds of orange juice where calcium does not ruin the flavor; Safeway’s is not one of them.

This means that next time I go shopping, even if the store brand stuff is cheaper, if all they have is calcium-added stuff I will select a more expensive brand.

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Some of you may know that a couple of months ago, Microsoft bought a chunk of Facebook.  5% of it, in fact.  That means that Microsoft owns 5% of Facebook.

I happen to own a few shares of Microsoft.  I did some of the math, and it turns out that I own 1/1.8 millionth of Facebook.  So, you Facebook users, you’re using an application that I (partially) own!

So in a way, you’ve kind of sold out to Microsoft as well.  You can’t go saying that you have no choice, the way you justify it with Windows and Office.  With Facebook you could always use MySpace… but you don’t.

Since you’re using my application, you should send me some money.

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The library is fantastic!

Ever since I moved to Redmond (a suburb of Seattle) I have had a library membership. I’ve never had a library membership before, other than when I was in school when I had it be de facto. Having this membership is great.

Before, I usually used to buy books that I want to read, but now I always check the library first. I’ve checked out and read about a half dozen books since being here. And today, I wandered in simply to browse around. I checked out the Investing section and sure enough, I came across two books that I had been wanting to read. These books usually run about $40 in the bookstores, whereas checking them out of the library is free! From a cost/benefit perspective, the library wins on that count.

I used to think that I wouldn’t want to merely borrow books, I would want to buy them and own them. That’s true to a small extent, but I think that many books I read, I only read once. The exceptions are my books on investing and magic. I have also found that borrowing books from the library, rather than owning them, doesn’t bother me so much as I thought it would. If there’s a book I really want, then I would go out and buy it. Until then, the price is right.

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I was browsing WallStrip today, and I came across the funniest stock market summary for the year 2007 that I have ever seen. You can view it here. Seriously, if you have even a remote interest in the market, click the link.

BTW, the girl in the video is the one that I met in New York last month.

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Well, at least it wasn’t Al Gore.

Time Magazine released its Person of the Year today, and this year’s winner is Russian President Vladimir Putin.  At first I was like "Putin?  Really?" but when I saw Al Gore was second, I was like "Phew, at least it was Putin."

Other contenders for the prize were JK Rowling, Hu Jintao (president of China), General David Petraeus (General of the mission in Iraq who stabilized the country) and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.  I think I would have been happy with any except for Hu Jintao, to whom I am indifferent because I don’t follow Chinese politics. Although, I think Petraeus would have been my pick, and then Steve Jobs.

However, I can’t argue with the choice of Putin.  For good or ill, Putin has had a tremendous influence on the world and that is what the award looks for.  Recall that in the 1990’s Russia was a complete basket case.  I mean, that nation was a joke worse than the Winnipeg Jets in the playoffs.  Now, with the price of oil soaring, Russia has re-emerged.  It is an economic power, a military power and is no pushover.  This is thanks to Putin.  Not only that, but Putin has managed to constitutionally hang onto controls of power after his term as President ends by appointing his own successor and then accepting the role of Prime Minister.  How much do you want to bet that the new President will step down and the PM will step up?  We all know Putin will control the scenes.

So, while naming Putin is a bit of an infamous pick, there’s no arguing with success.  I can’t disagree with this choice.  The only better selection would have been me.

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I watch Deal or No Deal on occasion, only because it comes on after Mad Money and I’m busy working on my laptop and I want some background noise.

I was interested in learning the mathematics of the game and what the optimal point to accept the offer is.  Because the game is based on pure chance, you need to use probability and statistics in order to find the optimal stop point.  This post here on this blog explains it perfectly.  The goal is not to maximize your money but try to beat the mean, that is, the expected value based on probability.

I was watching tonight after finding this post, and I saw a lady who had four entries left (including her case).  $10, $75, $1000, and $200,000.  The banker offer was $65,000.  Should she accept the deal or go for the $200k?

Well, I calculated the expected mean, and it was $66,333.  So, by accepting the deal, she would only lose out on $1333.  That’s only 2% of the total.  At that point, I think it is wise to accept the deal since it is so close to the expected payout.

However, that’s not what she did.  She decided to keep going.  The next case was opened and it revealed $10.  So, she got off lucky.  But the fact is that if you’re going to play the game, you ought to know the odds.

Update: She went to the very end, the odds were 50/50 and she decided to play it out.  As it turns out, she ended up going home with $1000.

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