Thursday, June 30, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Highly Recommended, One of the Best Books I Have Ever Read!

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

by Amy Chua

Description: “

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.

Description: “

Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching, or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Description: “

Thus began Sophia’s baptism of fire. Like Mrs. Vamos, Wei-Yi had expectations that were of an order galactically beyond what we’d been used to.

Bottom of Form

Note: This is an interesting statement. Wei-Yi had expected even more, far beyond Amy's expectation. What this really means is that incredible amount of work is expected to elevate one's standard, to break through the plateau.

Description: “

“But you’ve given your girls so much,” Caren persisted. “A sense of their own abilities, of the value of excellence. That’s something they’ll have all their lives.”

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“The important thing is that Lulu loves tennis,” the instructor said, very American-ly. “And she has an unbelievable work ethic—I’ve never seen anyone improve so fast. She’s a great kid. You and your husband have done an amazing job with her. She never settles for less than 110 percent. And she’s always so upbeat and polite.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prof. David Sinclair on Ageing

David Sinclair, Ph.D. is a Professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Co-Director of the Glenn Laboratories for Aging Research. He is a leader in the study of genes that control the aging process.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ohio University Commencement Address by Dr. Atul Gawande

On June 11, 2011, I got a chance to do one of the more gratifying things an adult can be asked to do—to return to one’s hometown to give a graduation address, in this case the undergraduate commencement address for Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

A Townie Speaks

Thank you, graduates and Ohio University, for this opportunity. I am a 1983 graduate of Athens High School. Which means, yes, you invited a townie to give your graduation address. I grew up here watching you, the students, come and go. Perhaps that should make you wonder whether it was foolish to have asked a townie to speak. I’m not sure, after all, how much you want me telling your parents about what I saw as a teenager on Court Street on Halloween nights.

What I want to talk about, though, is the huge impression you, the students, and this university made upon me. My sister and I were born in New York City. Our family moved to Athens when the two of us still had our baby teeth. And among the enduring beliefs I absorbed growing up here is a core American idea: Anything is possible in people’s lives. No one should be counted out.

It might seem strange to have learned this in a small Appalachian town. Thirty-five percent of Athens County’s population lives in poverty, the worst in the state. Almost half of my classmates never made it to college. Yet everywhere around me was also evidence that ordinary people could have extraordinary strength and contain possibilities no one imagined—even themselves.

Much of the evidence was right in my home. My parents were immigrants from India and they had somehow found it in themselves to swim against the tides of rural deprivation (in the case of my father) and of restrictions and low expectations for girls (in the case of my mother) to become doctors, to find their way to New York, to meet one another there and marry against caste restrictions, and to ultimately become regarded as local leaders here. But our town and Ohio University provided the rest of the evidence.

I remember, for instance, Karl Fry, a soft-spoken kid in the neighborhood who sometimes mowed our lawn for five bucks when I was in third grade and once showed me a nest of baby copperheads he’d found. When I was in eighth grade, he went to O.U. and made the ice hockey team. By my ninth grade year, he was a starting winger, and I used to go down to Bird Arena to watch him and the team play. I’d stand up against the glass behind the opponent’s goal where I could see up close the incredible speed of the slapshots he and his teammates unleashed, and feel the force of the Bobcats checking the other players against the boards. It seemed to me I was watching a person I had known and yet never knew existed. Karl and the team won the Midwest College Hockey League championship three times. And he also somehow worked hard enough to graduate summa cum laude in computer science, going on to become a computer systems engineer and entrepreneur.

No one comes to Ohio University anointed for the future. Nothing demonstrated that more clearly than the sports. I was here during the dark years of Bobcat football. You learned not to expect much. But you also learned you could still hope for it. My senior year in high school, the O.U. basketball team thrilled us all by winning a berth in the NCAA tournament. I drove my little red Datsun twenty-two hours down to Tampa, Florida, with three friends and two cassette tapes playing over and over—Pink Floyd, “The Wall,” was on one and Def Leppard, “Pyromaniac,” on the other—and we arrived in time to watch the Bobcats pull off a stunning, down-to-the-last-minute, two-point upset of far higher-ranked Illinois State.

Full Article

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Hindsight Fallacy

The recent sky-high IPO of LinkedIn, along with eye-popping valuations for other social networking and shopping companies, has raised concerns that we are now in the midst of another technology bubble, this one fueled by excessive investor enthusiasm for all things social.

No sooner have these concerns been raised, however, than they have been countered by an array of arguments, all of which are variations on the basic claim that this internet boom is unlike the previous one. This debate illustrates one of the central causes of financial bubbles: Although after the fact it seems obvious that prices were irrational and an unhappy end was inevitable, bubbles are neither obvious nor inevitable at the time.

The fact is that financial bubbles throughout history display almost metronomic regularity. Some asset class, often a product of new technology or financial innovation, becomes fashionable, and prices rise rapidly as demand outstrips supply. Excitement over early riches leads to speculation that the normal economic rules have changed, thereby justifying valuations that are based largely on assumptions about future profits. As prices balloon well beyond early investors' wildest dreams, disagreement over the correct measure of value increases. Then, finally, some adverse event that might normally have little impact triggers a downward spiral of selling, often accompanied by outright panic.

In hindsight, this pattern is so familiar that it's hard to believe anyone could have misunderstood what was happening—witness the now-ridiculous-seeming valuations of the 1990s Internet start-ups, and more recently the clearly misguided assumptions about perpetual growth in real estate prices that underpinned the 2008 financial crisis.

But if bubbles are so obvious, why do they keep happening?

Full Article

Fairholme Fund Conference Call Transcript

“In hindsight, we swapped from health insurers and defense to financials too early. Our companies continue to be priced for continuing stress and the price we paid reflects those stresses. And the prices we paid are quite cheap in our opinion compared to how these companies should perform in a more normal environment. Some people think we are spread too thin [and] we’ve slipped, but I must tell you we are smack dab in the middle of our circle of competence in financial services.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bill Gates Talks with College Students

From time to time Bill visits college campuses to talk with students and faculty about using their education and research to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges. Watch his talk and Q&A session with students and faculty at Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College.

Bill Gates at Pomona College from Pomona College on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Real Deal by James Caan

For those who watch Dragons' Den TV series, you may find this book interesting. Very inspiring.

Enjoy reading,



The Real Deal

by James Caan

  • The thing I’ve noticed over the years is that if you study the world around you and ask the right questions, the decisions make themselves: you just go on the journey and see what happens.

  • I started my first business with no money and no support in a broom cupboard with only the Yellow Pages for company they are genuinely surprised. Anyone can start a business the way I did. All it takes is a good idea and the determination to tell people about it. It just requires you to be willing to start out on a journey even though you don’t know the destination.

  • appreciation of a ‘win-win’ formula.

  • ‘Successful business’, he taught me, ‘is not about good transactions, it’s about good relationships.’

  • I now understood the principles of running a business, and I knew that if you didn’t have a unique selling point, a USP, then you were going to be dead in the water.

  • Don’t listen to your friends; don’t read what the papers say: just look at the facts and assess what you really want.

  • I am very comfortable asking questions and I don’t have the kind of ego that worries about whether people think I’m smart or not. So with every situation, my routine is the same: What do you do? How do you do it? What do you charge? How does it work? How will I know if your work has been successful or not? What would I measure you with? I’m very comfortable being direct or inquisitive, so I just ask.

  • The other thing I learned to do in negotiations was always to ask one final question when we shook hands: Are you happy with that deal?

Friday, June 17, 2011

“A Morning with Charlie”

Charlie Munger cordially invites you to attend a Morning with Charlie on Friday, July 1, 2011, at 10:00 a.m., in the Exhibit Hall & Ballroom Building of The Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California. Charlie will make some opening remarks, and then he will take questions from the audience about business, economics and life.

The Morning with Charlie will be held regardless of whether the merger between Wesco and Berkshire Hathaway is approved at the special meeting of Wesco’s shareholders, which is currently scheduled for June 24, 2011. Please note that Charlie will not be speaking at the special meeting.

The Pasadena Convention Center is located at 300 East Green Street, Pasadena, California. The Convention Center’s parking structure may be accessed from Euclid Avenue, which runs north-south, to the east of the Convention Center. Additional parking can be found nearby, in the shopping center across Green Street to the north, and at the corner of Green Street and Los Robles Avenue, one block to the east of the Convention Center.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Shocking truth about sucrose & fructose.

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.

1.5 hours, but worth it. In fact, it is definitely a must-watch presentation.

Luke Johnson: Visionaries need not be mad, but it helps

“There has never been any great genius without a spice of madness,” said the Roman philosopher Seneca. Does this also apply to entrepreneurs?

A new book, called A First-Rate Madness, written by psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi, postulates that there is a link between mental illness and successful leadership. In particular, the author argues that in times of crisis, the best leaders are the slightly insane ones. For example, he argues that Ted Turner, the inventor of 24-hour television news with CNN, has suffered from bipolar disorder – but that this condition helped him become a billionaire. He inherited his family business at 21 but his creativity and unconventional approach contributed hugely to his achievements.

Many of the finest entrepreneurs I know are extremists – and might be considered a little psychotic. They frequently display traits that are also attributable to the mentally ill. Quite a few are impulsive, domineering, grandiose, fast-talking, distractible and addicted to risk. Another book, published in 2005, called The Hypomanic Edge by John D. Gartner – also a professor of psychiatry – suggests that hypomania endows many Americans with an unusual level of energy, creativity, enthusiasm and wild daring. This mild condition – as opposed to the severe illness suffered by full-blown manic-depressives – is not a necessary prerequisite for those seeking to change the world but it probably facilitates those ambitions.

Is hypomania a gift or a burden? The rebellious temperament and messianic zeal that characterises so many empire builders must be very exhausting. Sufferers – if that is the word – are unlikely to enjoy a tranquil life. Yet harnessing these atypical features can make those possessing them unusually productive. Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish industrial titan, was a classic robber baron: ruthless, impatient, ferociously competitive – but also a dreamer who gave his vast wealth away, saying “he who dies rich dies disgraced”. Carnegie did nothing by half measures and was a bizarre mix of monster and idealist. He had superhuman drive, stating: “The rising man must do something exceptional and beyond the range of his special department. HE MUST ATTRACT ATTENTION.” All his radical behaviours were classic symptoms of a hypomanic.

Full Article

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Free Capital: How 12 private investors made millions in the stock market

Excellent written book by Guy Thomas on 12 private investors who become financial independent through investing. This is great encouragement for all private investors.

All of them have different strategies, but they become successful through swimming their own races and continuously sharpening and improving their skills.
Some great quotes:

The scarcest resource for successful investors is not money but attention: how to manage the trade-off between time and rationality to best effect. There is not time in life to find out everything about every potential investment. Investment skill consists not in knowing everything, but in judicious neglect: making wise choices about what to overlook.

In careers or in investment, it helps enormously to pick the right train – choose a field with long-term secular growth.”

“Most investors would have better performance if they thought more and did less. One of the great tricks in investment is learning to be happy doing nothing.”

“A market doesn’t peak until the majority is convinced it is going to move higher, and it doesn’t bottom until the majority believes it must go lower.”

Portfolio investment is a zero-sum game in which the winners are the players with an informational or analytical edge.

After half a century, he thinks that there are “only two keys to long-term investment success: common sense and patience

“A consensus of expert opinion is not useful in investment, because it’s already discounted by current market prices. That is not true in other fields – medicine or law or even plumbing.

“Reading a biography of Bernard Baruch made a strong impression on me. He was a plunger – that was how he made his fortune. [Gerald M.] Loeb’s The Battle for Investment Survival makes the same point: put all your eggs in one basket, and watch the basket. It made sense to me: to make a large fortune from a small one, you need to be a plunger.”

Free Capital: How 12 private investors made millions in the stock market

Michael Harkin's Speech at Grant's Conference

My last idea also brings me round again to Anatoly Rybakov, who claimed whenever you wanted to hide something from the KGB it was best to leave it face up on the center of your desk. The neighbors would never think to look there. At this odd moment in capitalism, so much value is lying in plain sight, and we think Google is an example. Google makes more money than all the other internet companies Value Line lists in its internet section combined. The internet has been a remarkable destroyer of business models, but not much of a profit generator. Google steps in to that void. Google has $32 billion in cash on hand, which they got the right way. They didn’t borrow it, they have no debt, they didn’t sell something and the cash is the residue, it isn’t lying around from the IPO. This $147 per share is money that they made, and in only 9 years and a bit as a public company. Now I know there’s been some writing in the New York Times that maybe we should give the cash lying around at tech companies some kind of discount, perhaps because it’s not all in dollars and parked in a U.S. bank, or because it hasn’t been all taxed at American rates. But I would like to pose a question to the Timesmen. If you don’t like cash and the rapid accumulation of more if it, what is it you do like about business? This is silly quibbling from the Times, and if you subtract out the $150 in cash per share, and they earn the $31 a share or more I think they will, you just bought yourself a great inflation hedge at effectively 13 times earnings. And look at that record. Buffett and Munger went on and on at last year’s Woodstock about what a moat Google had, and while we’ll note Microsoft’s Bing has made some inroads, it still is hard to compete with these guys. I don’t know what new act in tights Google will come up with next, although last week’s news articles about how Google is looking to nurture old media content providers by stuffing pillows over their heads left me somewhat perplexed. I’m no great seer in this regard, but do you spend your days like me toggling back and forth between the Google page and the Bloomberg machine? This is nothing like insider knowledge, but can you imagine a morning when Larry Page gets out of bed and says, “I wonder if there is anything more in the financial space for us to do?” About two hours later Bloomberg will look like the Quotron machine did twenty years ago. The Bloomberg is some piece of expensive, archaic, annoying architecture, that looks ripe for the taking, and it would move the needle, at least for a year or two, even at mighty Google.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Burbank Contrarian Bets

As a hedge-fund manager who thrives on turbulence in the commodities markets, John Burbank couldn’t have done better than the first week of May.

The prices of oil, metals and other raw materials nose- dived the most in two years as investors retreated from emerging markets amid surging inflation in China and India and political upheaval sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa. For Burbank, the founder and chief investment officer of San Francisco-based Passport Capital LLC, the sell-off is an opportunity. He’s looking to add to the heavy bets he’s made in the frontier market of Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its July issue.

The Saudi monarchy’s decision to roll tanks into neighboring Bahrain to help quell an uprising -- as well as the rebellions in Libya and Syria -- may give some investors pause. Not Burbank, a hedge-fund manager who made his name by earning a 220 percent net return in 2007 after shorting subprime mortgages.

He sees little chance that the Saudi regime will be overthrown or that crude prices will collapse. As the insular kingdom opens up to foreign investors -- it didn’t permit outsiders to buy Saudi stocks until 2008 -- Burbank says now is the time to plow into the country’s petroleum-rich economy.

He’s acquiring stakes in publicly traded petrochemical companies, banks, construction firms and even health-care providers. The Saudi investments made up about 11 percent of Passport’s $2.1 billion flagship fund, Global Strategy, as of May.

Unorthodox Methods

“The crisis isn’t affecting the long-term reality that this is where the oil is,” says Burbank, 47, a beefy man with a full beard who looks more like a longshoreman than an elite money manager. “We want exposure to the Saudi economy because the prices are very cheap and there’s going to be a lot of growth and higher returns on capital, and that’s something that’s likely to play out over a number of years.”

Burbank’s Saudi trade is right in character for a money manager with a knack for using unorthodox methods to exploit the globe’s scarcity of raw materials. While the commodities market’s two-year rally skidded in the second quarter -- crude dropped almost 15 percent and silver shed 28 percent from April 28 to May 9 -- Burbank says the ongoing development of emerging economies will convert little-known raw material producers into money machines for years to come.

Prospecting Skills

Burbank has little interest in trading commodities themselves, which are subject to price distortions as speculators move in and out of markets. Instead, he wants to make a 10-fold return on his investments by purchasing equity in undervalued companies such as oil tanker operators that are poised to grow as long as demand for raw materials steadily rises.

That often involves unearthing small firms that discover mother lodes of highly sought resources, ranging from potash in Kazakhstan to coking coal in Mozambique.

Passport’s investors have profited from Burbank’s prospecting skills. The Global Strategy fund has delivered an annualized 23.6 percent net return since its inception in August 2000, according to data obtained from Passport investors. The HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index gained 4.3 percent in that span, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.6 percent.

Burbank is racing to beat multinational companies in Australia, China and India that are hunting for new sources of ore, metals and minerals. Passport reaps big dividends when these large players purchase the output of one of the hedge fund’s companies or, even better, the entire enterprise itself.

138 Percent Return

In 2007, Passport started buying shares in Riversdale Mining Ltd. (RIV), an Australian firm developing deposits in Mozambique of coking coal to be used in making steel. Last year, Riversdale was Passport’s No. 1 holding, even though it had yet to mine any coal from the find in Mozambique and lost $799 million.

Burbank’s gamble paid off when Melbourne-based Rio Tinto Ltd. (RIO) made a $3.4 billion bid for Riversdale on Dec. 6 and later increased it to $4 billion. Riversdale shares soared 138 percent in 2010 and helped lift Global Strategy to an 18.2 percent performance after fees. Passport sold most of its shares to Rio Tinto in the first quarter. In early May, Rio Tinto held 73 percent of Riversdale and planned to delist the company.

Burbank, a somewhat rumpled man who shuns neckties and suits in favor of fleece vests and chinos, has long contended our era will be defined by the acute shortage of resources and the decline of debt-strapped economies in the U.S. and Europe.

Underestimated Damage

“I believe the West is bankrupt and failing and it’s just a question of when,” he intoned in his baritone voice to more than 1,700 attendees at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference for hedge-fund investors in Las Vegas on May 12.

Burbank’s investment record and outspokenness have won him respect from peers who see him emerging as an elite name in hedge funds.

“He’s an original thinker, and he’s got guts,” says Kyle Bass, founder of Hayman Capital Management LP in Dallas, who was at the conference.

Even so, Passport investors have been whipsawed at times during the past decade. In 2008, Burbank almost lost his firm after he underestimated how much damage the global credit crunch would inflict on emerging-market stocks. Confident his long-term bullishness on commodities producers would be rewarded, he added shares of raw materials companies even as investors exited such positions in August and September.

Full Article