Monthly Archives: December 2006

Who are college students today??

Price Roe sent me this fascinating study on college students. It is a detailed survey of 263,710 students at 385 4-year colleges. That’s comprehensive!

The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2005
By Sylvia Hurtado & John H. Pryor
(the 2006 study should come out next month)

they have been doing these studies since the mid-sixties and the results and trends are fascinating.

Books I read in 2006

Every year I review the books I have read and listened to. Here are 2005 and 2004.

In 2006, I read 48 books (I listened to 23 of them) somehow. Of the 25 I read … some of those books were so bad I couldn’t finish. Others were really short. And most of the reading was done on a plane or during my Sunday evening reading time I generally devote to myself. But one thing I did to keep reading going is that I have been reading 10 pages of a book before I go to bed every day. and while this isn’t much (only 10 minutes a day), it adds up to basically completing a book over 5-6 weeks.

Of the books in 2006, I’ve bolded the ones (12 of them) that I felt were particularly good and really had a profound impact on me.

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife

State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III by Bob Woodward

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Small is the New Big by Seth Godin

Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s warning : How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in This Century–On Earth and Beyond by Martin J. Rees

The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World, 1700-2000 by Niall Ferguson

Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in A Noisy World by Linda Kaplan Thaler

The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense by Michael Shermer

The Commanding Heights : The Battle for the World Economy by Daniel Yergin, Joseph Stanislaw

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

China Inc: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World Ted Fishman

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East Michael B. Oren

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend by Joseph B. Treaster

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H. A. Rey and H.A. Rey

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships by David A. Heenan and Warren Bennis

Burn Before Reading by Stansfield Turner

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

Bla Bla: 600 Incredibly Useless Facts: Something to Talk About When You Have Nothing to Talk About

Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel by Narain Gehani

The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Joe Trippi

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the New Economy by Pekka Himanen, Linus Torvalds and Manuel Castells

Science Friction : Where the Known Meets the Unknown by Michael Shermer

Charlemagne by Richard Winston

Get Back in the Box : Innovation from the Inside Out by Douglas Rushkoff

Takedown : The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire by Rick Cowan

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

I Didn’t Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation by Michela Wrong

See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terror by Robert Baer

How to use Google

The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey

End of Faith by Sam Harris

Why Do Men Have Nipples : Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor after Your Third Martini by Mark Leynet and Billy Goldberg

Executive Intelligence by Justin Menkes

On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins

Juice: The Creative Fuel That Drives World-Class Inventors by Evan Schwartz

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein

DisneyWar by James Stewart

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitcick

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

give people incentives to pay early

I went to an event the other night that cost $32 to attend, $24 if you bought your tickets early.

Now I was 95% sure I was going to attend, so in theory it would make economic sense for me to by my ticket early. I would have saved $8 if I bought the ticket early and since I was only 5% unlikely to go, my expected loss if buying a ticket early was only $1.20 (much less than the eight dollars).

But I elected to buy my tickets at the door. Why?

First, a few stipulations:
1. there was a 100% that this particular event would not sell out. so unlike most events where I feel compelled to buy my tickets early (like a Robin Williams comedy performance), I knew I could get tickets at the door.

2. I had inside information. I had been to this event in years past and I figured it would be run in a similar way.

So here’s why I chose to get my tickets at the door: Time.

– Buying the tickets online takes time. In this case, it takes quite a but of time as their web site is somewhat clunky.

– now usually buying the tickets ahead of time allows you to save time later. Not in this case. I assumed (it turned out correctly) that vast majority of people would be buying tickets a ahead of time and that their name was on a list. That means there would be a long line for people waiting to get their name checked off the list (it turns out the line was about 20 minutes long). The line to buy tickets, by contrast, would be really small (it turns out the line had zero people on it and I would right up, gave them $32 in cash, and walked right into the event).

So — in this case my calculation was — would I be willing to pay $6.80 ($8.00 – $1.20) to skip standing on line for 20 minutes in the freezing cold. To me, $6.80 was a real bargain.

In the future, the event could do a much better job of getting people to pay early by (1) making their web sign-up faster, (2) making the pre-pay line go faster, and (3) by charging more for people that pay at the door.

State of Denial

Stateofdenial235State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
by Bob Woodward

just downed this book on audible … another casualty of it raining a lot and me not being able to read while walking to work …

the book had little surprises … i guess if you read all the articles that came out because of the book, you’d gain little from reading it.

but after reading this Woodward book (and i’ve read 4 or 5 others), i’m always amazed that anyone actually speaks to him. it seems he had dozens of meetings with Don Rumsfeld (who comes off horribly), most of Rumsfeld’s past deputies (though it seems he has little insight from Wolfowitz), Andy Card, and even Newt Gingrinch.

here is an example of an interview Woodward had with General Peter Pace that was printed in the book:

GEN. PETER PACE: The attacks are up because folks want that place to be ungovernable so that when it is ungovernable we would walk away so that they could then take over. So you can expect the attacks to stay up because every day Prime Minister Malaki and his parliament meet and make decisions is a bad day for those who are creating those attacks. You will see the numbers go up in Afghanistan probably also because in both of those countries as those governments stand up and get stronger, it’s a bad day for the anti-Iraqi, anti-Afghan forces.

That does not mean that we should not be sensitive to these numbers, which we are, and we should be doing what we’re doing, which is trying to drive them back down. But we should understand that part of the reason for that is the understanding of the enemy, that they’re on the ropes as far as if this parliament continues to function, this prime minister continues to function, the enemy’s ability to have the caliphate that they want to have is diminished.

MR. BOB WOODWARD: Okay, but are they on the ropes?

GEN. PETER PACE: Wrong word.

MR. BOB WOODWARD: Yeah, you’re going to sound like Dick Cheney. Do you want to retract that?

GEN. PETER PACE: I would like to retract that, thank you. Thank you — I appreciate the courtesy.

MR. BOB WOODWARD: Yea, no. Good, because it didn’t seem to me where you were going – because it is, I’m not — I mean, I was surprised —

GEN. PETER PACE: I’m not surprised because I’ve been watching it, so I’m not surprised.

now the interview is pretty long, but Woodward seems to pull out the worst quotes from General Pace to make him look somewhat bumbling and not in control. Woodward makes Gen Pace seem like a Yes-Man who has no courage and no thoughts of his own. but the full interview reveals a much more nuanced picture of the General — one that Woodward fails to convey in the book.

overall, the book is very entertaining … but I’m not sure as to the veracity of it. it is hard to determine how much is fact or fiction.

buy time by skipping holiday parties

I thought I’d give myself more time to work in December (we’re releasing some big products) so I consciously cut out holiday parties during the week. This was especially important this year since the holiday season started early due to an early Thanksgiving.

Now I love holiday parties … they’re a lot of fun. But sometimes one has to cut out some hard stuff to buy time.

how much time did I gain thus far? I estimate a gain of 15-20 hours year-over-year (2006 to 2005 comparable). That’s huge. … now I hope I don’t blow it watching all the Christmas spoofs on YouTube …

book: Team of Rivals

RivalsTeam of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

this is a great book. after reading this you’ll realize why Lincoln was the right leader at the right time. i highly recommend this book … and it is available to listen on Audible.

(you might be noticing that i’ve been finished a lot of audiobooks lately. i usually read while i walk to work but it has been raining in SF lately so i have consoled myself with listening to books)

Need more time? You can buy time

what is the purpose of money?

To me the purpose is the increase life, decrease pain, increase happiness, and help others.

TimegifOne easy way to increase your happiness is to decrease your pain points. Think of all the things you’ve been complaining about and see how to can eliminate them. Like if your friend is always late and it really annoys you, buy your friend a reminder service.

I have a bunch of friends that have made some money that are always complaining about time. They feel they don’t have time to do this or that. They don’t have enough time to read (they say). They don’t have enough time to work on a cool project. They don’t have enough time to play with their kids.

But you can buy time.

Need an extra two hours a day? Buy it.

Time isn’t cheap. But if you can afford it and it is your biggest pain point … then buy some time.

Some people invest their excess cash in a really nice car or a really nice watch. Or they throw a huge birthday party for themselves. Now these are all fine things … but they don’t solve most people’s pain points.

With my extra cash, I buy time. I drive a normal Toyota and have a $10 watch, but I have a personal assistant. For years (when I was at Stonebrick) she worked out of my home. Now that I’m at Rapleaf full-time, she helps out with things occasionally. And she is REALLY helpful.

So I bought time.

Yep. Paid for time. How much is time worth to you? If you say you’re worth $300/hr because that’s what you make in the office, then a free hour where you can do anything you want is worth more than $300. because you can do anything you want in that hour. Anything. So you should be willing to pay at least $300 for someone to do a chore you were going to do so it frees up your time so you can do something else.

And if it costs less than $300, then you should assume that you got a steal. A real steal.

Time is very valuable. But you can buy it.