Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sushi Pillows!

Now why didn't I think of this?!

Sushi dreamin'

Fantasy Football And The Trojans

I hadn't played Fantasy Football for years, but as a Season Ticket holder for the USC Trojans
I've had the great pleasure of watching a number of players graduate into the NFL. These include, of course, Reggie with the Saints, Matt with the Arizona Cardinals, as well as Lendale White with the Titans, Big Mike Williams with the Lions (not the greatest success story, but keep the faith), and Troy Palomalu with the Steelers.

So finally, I'm back into it. I decided to field an All-Trojan team, and I expect that within two years they are going to be an unstoppable juggernaut of whip-ass. Any challengers?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Top Rated Charities

I spoke earlier about maximizing the value of your charitable donations by choosing your charities, wisely. Charity Watch is an organization that helps to do that by ranking charities based on how much of what they take in is spent on directly helping people, vs. how much is used in running the charity or in soliciting donations.

That's an imperfect measure, of course. Just giving every penny that comes in directly to the targeted beneficiaries is not necessarily the best way to do good works. Some management can make the charity more effective. And investing in driving future donations is useful to, though in many cases non-profit groups are just competing against each other for peoples' hard earned dough. But it is a good jumping-off point when trying to figure out a group that has come to you, hat in hand.

Teen Crashes Car to Ward Off Unbelted Carjacker

An Iowa teen intentionally swerved his car into oncoming traffic to escape a carjacker who was holding him at gunpoint. The carjacker had grown angry after making the teen drive to two ATMs, neither of which met the carjacker's standards. He threatened to kill the boy.

The young man, after realizing that he was wearing a seatbelt and the carjacker wasn't, decided to crash his car into an oncoming SUV. The driver of the SUV was not injured, but the carjacker was knocked unconscious and arrested at the scene.

More Charity for Your Money

Every year, I receive dozens of solicitations for charity from police organizations, homeless shelters, animal services and zoos, schools, you name it. So how do I decide which charities to give to?

I have what I suppose are unusual criteria... As a businessman, I like to ask the question of which charity will have the greatest "return". I tend to believe that Americans are better off than other people in the world, so I consider it a poor use of my resources to give to charities such as "Make a Wish", which aim to bring a little more joy into the life of dying children who are already well-off by world standards. While I understand the sentiment, I've seen true abject poverty and misery abroad, and I'd rather feed some kid in the Philippines for the rest of his life than send a kid in Minnesota with Leukemia to Disneyland.

But that's not enough... while undoubtedly "Save the Children" is a great charity, how can my money have the most impact? I've read about charities that offer entrepeneurial "microloans" which follow the "teach a man to fish" philosophy, and those seem promising. Has anyone bothered to rank charities in terms of a charitable ROI? I'd be really interested in seeing that. I'm not a rich man, and I have a limited amount to give, so it's important to me that the money go where it will have the greatest impact. Ideas appreciated.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New David Allen Productivity Podcast

I posted a couple days ago about how David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" has really changed my work-life. Now David Allen has hooked up with productivity blog/board/wiki 43 Folders to start a productivity Podcast. This sounds really interesting.

What a great idea! The basics of GTD can be laid out nicely in a book, but a lot of the most interesting stuff is bound to come in one-off questions that can be answered in a Podcast. The biggest barrier to really implementing a productivity system is consistency, and putting it in a Podcast encourages constant re-evaluation of your own progress.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Keeping Up With the Joneses

From MSN, a cautionary tale about what can happen when you try to keep up with friends who make more money than you. To paraphrase Andrew Tobias in the best finance book I've ever read:

Earn $50,000, spend $45,000 = happiness.
Earn $45,000, spend $50,000 = misery.

Living in the UK

V Train and I recently visited London. V Train actually had a job offer their, so we thought we'd combine a scouting expedition to see if we'd like to live there with our annual vacation. In addition to meeting the folks who offered her the job, we hit Wimbledon on the day of the mens' finals (relax, it was just Henman Hill), tried Pimms cups, caught the Italian celebration of the world cup victory, took the Chunnel into Paris, and found a crappy Polish/Mexican restaurant selling a $20 burrito. (ouch)

The verdict? Well, we'll definitely will be moving over there sometime in the next two or three years... but not for this job. I have a couple other London opportunities coming up in the next few years, and she's going to wait for the right opportunity for her. We're going to need a long runway to pull it off, because the logistics look to be pretty sticky. For instance, did you know that you need a bank account to get an apartment, but you need an apartment to get a bank account in the UK? Those kind of things will drive you batty if you don't do your homework (and even if you do).

For now, it appears that V Train and I will be revisiting this idea often. Look us up in Kensington 5 years on! Pip pip, cheerio, and all that rubbish.

Google in Talks to Buy YouTube

According to the Motley Fool, Google is in talks with YouTube to purchase the video sharing site for $1.6 billion. This is not remotely surprising given how YouTube has handed Google their lunch ever since Google launched Google Video. Google's never caught up with YouTube and the way people use it as a networking site, launching celebrities like LonelyGirl15.

Since Google's sitting on $9.8 billion in cash, they can actually pull this off just by showing up at their San Mateo headquarters with some large, bulging suitcases.

Trojans, Bears, and Trick Plays

I just got back from the USC vs. Washington football game, which was much more of a nailbiter than I would have liked. I may be hoarse tomorrow from yelling through almost the entire fourth quarter. In the first quarter there was a neat fake field goal... Steve Smith sat on the sidelines just inches inbound like he was supposed to be off the field, and when they snapped the ball he was uncovered and untouched as third string quarterback Michael McDonald tossed him the ball near the endzone.

I got to watch the Bears take on Oregon after I got home, and the Ducks ran the exact.... same... play. Seems like they watched the game and figured they'd better use the play while the Bears maybe still hadn't seen the replay from the SC game. Worked ok, but they didn't make it into the endzone for some reason.

Meanwhile, I'm grateful for the win, Auburn lost to Arkansas (who was crushed by SC), and Tennesee are showing themselves to be one of the best teams in the country after beating Cal in the first game of the year. A good day to be an SC/Cal fan.

Friday, October 06, 2006

HP Execs charged with felonies

It's a tough time to be a big time corporate exec. The mood lately has been to send as many as possible to jail. And let's be honest: they've had it coming for a while. Cry me a river.

Patricia Dunn, the recently resigned HP CEO, was charged today with felonies related to her botched investgation of leaks coming from the HP Board. Four others were charged as well.

She was fed up with leaks, and probably was right in taking a stand against them but... the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Oil Prices Continue to Drop

Oil prices have dropped to $60 per barrel from a summer high of $78. I talked about why a big drop might be coming down the pike in a previous post. In California, I haven't seen any gas prices that start with a 1 just yet, but some parts of the country are reporting that.

USA today, however, is skeptical that gas prices will continue to fall until the nationwide average hits the ones, but doesn't really offer any compelling arguments for why we might be at a gas price floor. I'm betting on that there will be continued decreases in fuel prices.

Review: David Allen's "Getting Things Done"

About 6 months ago, I picked up a copy of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" based on good word of mouth. At the time, I was disorganized to the point where I was bumping up against the Peter Principle, having been promoted to my level of incompetence. I had well over 1,200 e-mails in my inbox.

The main philosophy of the book is that disorganization creates a constant hum of mental stress. If you aren't absolutely positive that you have a system that will remind you of the things you need to do in time to do them, then your brain will struggle to hold on to them. Ever lay in bed at night thinking about all the stuff you need to do tomorrow, and thinking about how you'll remind yourself of those things? I did. Ever get out of bed because it pops into your head that you owed a deliverable today and forgot to send it? I did.

The book proposes an entire complicated system, but you can adopt it in simple form, as I did. I have since cleaned out my inbox. I have 2 "to do" folders (personal and work), 1 "for review" folder, and 1 "waiting on someone else" folder in my Outlook. I also have a ton of archival folders for things that aren't actionable. Every to-do I have gets converted into an e-mail, and I'm now confident that I have a full record of my to-dos that is accessible at any time. My inbox stays at zero. All e-mails either get put into one of my four action folders, deleted, or archived. If it's a thirty second to-do, then I just do it right away and then archive or delete. That's much easier to do when you don't have 1200 e-mails in your in-box. It's made a huge difference on my productivity.

There's a lot of other great stuff in there, some of which I'm doing, but that's the single thing that's made the greatest difference. I can't recommend the book highly enough, and I think it's going to be directly responsible for my next promotion.

Miracle Hiccup Cure!

Israeli doctors have developed a miracle hiccup cure you can try at home!

A 60-year-old man with acute pancreatitis developed persistent hiccups after insertion of a nasogastric tube. Removal of the latter did not terminate the hiccups which had also been treated with different drugs, and several manoeuvres were attempted, but with no success. Digital rectal massage was then performed resulting in abrupt cessation of the hiccups. Recurrence of the hiccups occurred several hours later, and again, they were terminated immediately with digital rectal massage. No other recurrences were observed. This is the second reported case associating cessation of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage. We suggest that this manoeuvre should be considered in cases of intractable hiccups before proceeding with pharmacological agents.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Foley Scandal

If you haven't read the Foley IMs yet, you're missing out on a whole bunch of ewwwww. It turns out that while ABC was the first major network to break the story, they got it from an anonymous blogspot blog.

Looks like Hastert's in a bit of trouble now too. When the Washington Times is calling for Republican blood, you know someone screwed up bad.