"Both Warren [Buffett] & I insist on a lot of time being available almost every day to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. We read and think. So Warren and I do more reading and thinking and less doing than most people in business." - Charlie Munger

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why didn't I join the debate team in middle school?

Hi all,

I am working on a really interesting art-related blog post right now, but in the meantime I figured I would post Talita's new debate topics, to see if anyone has any interesting feedback. I've learned from helping her put together her debate outlines, that these are always topics worth knowing more about anyway.

Aside from simply posting the topics, I want to let you all know how incredible the debate program is, and how worthwhile of an activity it is to get your children (current or future) involved in from an early age (earliest they can become formally involved is usually 6th grade, and in some cases 7th grade). Debating develops so many skills for young students; they become more comfortable with and/or interested in: public speaking & oral communication, critical thinking, knowledge of current events and the social sciences, reading, research, reasoning skills, and, not to mention debate involvement is almost always correlated with significant increases in GPA (grade point average)! Aside from these things, I have noticed that being on the debate team gives kids the opportunity to associate and socialize with other kids who are especially dedicated to academic achievement and learning, which can never hurt, if you ask me...

Anyway, here are the topics...let me know your thoughts (note: debaters must come to the tournament prepared to argue both the opposition and the proposition for all of the below topics):

1. The United States should significantly expand its use of nuclear power.

2. Single sex education does more good than harm.

3. The California lottery should be abolished.

4. Public funding should not be used to attract professional sports teams to cities

If I have time, I will also try to post concise versions of our outlines for all of the topics...probably after the tournament.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Read this book.

Born to Run (A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen) by: Christopher McDougall

I read this book a while ago, but it is so worth reading, for so many reasons, that I feel compelled to go back in time and put this into a current blog posting.
You can find many summaries of the book by simply googling it, so I will not bother summarizing; however, I will tell you some of the more interesting things this book made me think about:

1. Evolution and Physiology. Why and how did we outlive the Neanderthals, even though they were bigger, stronger and even superior in brain size? How is it that we, at our greatest, can run down a deer? Interestingly, the answer to both of these questions has everything to do with our running endurance, specifically our running endurance under extreme conditions, like excessive heat/sun.

2. Diet and Exercise. I am already a very health-conscious person, when it comes to my eating and exercise habits. However, I do not get my information directly from nutritionists and other experts. Instead, I prefer to piece together my own diet and exercise belief system, from my reading, personal experience, intuition & logic. In this book, the Tarahumara Indians, arguably the best runners in the world, many of whom can run over 100 miles without rest, (and who also have nearly nonexistent incidences of modern diseases) subsist off of a diet of mainly the following foods:
pinto beans, squash, chili peppers, wild beans, pinole, chia, corn tortillas (made with limestone for calcium), rice, corn, and many other fruits and vegetables. They eat meat only occasionally. Aside from their homemade beer-type liquor, their diet consists of NO sugars or processed carbohydrates.
Also, Geranium Niveum (a.k.a Wild Geranium) is the Tarahumara super drug- as effective as red wine at neutralizing disease-causing free radicals.

3. Questioning the Benefits of Modernization. There is no question that some things modern are indispensably and indisputably incredible; I would never want to take back the advances achieved by modern medicines like penicillin. However, as most of us know, even modern medicine is certainly a double-edged sword: my mind automatically switches from penicillin to the more modern issues of toxic over-medicating and poisonous elective 'injectables'. This book discreetly highlights some of the counter-productivity associated with modernization. One of the most clear examples is the reality that, in nearly every single study done, the price of running shoes is positively correlated with the frequency and extremity of injury. Christopher McDougall points out that many experts would even go so far as to suggest that running barefoot, as the Tarahumara do, is far better for our bodies than running in a pair of Nike Shox!! As I pointed out in #2, the Tarahumara Indians experience nearly non-existent levels of modern disease, which most likely has something to do with any or all of the following variables: they do not ingest any of our 'modern' sugars and processed carbohydrates, they exercise outdoor regularly and extensively, and they have an extremely peaceful culture, free of many of the stressors associated with modern society (9 to 5 workdays, excessive use & consumption of technology etc). These are just a couple reasons, amongst many, why this book made me question the benefits of modernization.

So, basically I could go on and on about Born to Run and the things it made me think about, but I really suggest that you go out and buy it or stay home and download it, and start reading today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ECONOMICS vs. BUSINESS, Paul Krugman breaks it down

On my flight from JFK to LAX, I just read "A Country is Not a Company" by Paul Krugman.

My reason for this posting is two-pronged:

1. I figure if I begin my blog with an exceedingly boring post, my next post can only be more exciting.

2. An understanding of Economics does not come as naturally to me as an understanding of Business & Finance. My mind is more practically-wired so theory often evades me. The perfectionist that I am, I like to improve where I am lacking. Maybe you can relate?!

Anyway, here is what I learned, and I will try and attach my complete outline, if, in fact, there is a place to attach a document here:

1. Contrary to the belief of many businesspeople, The U.S. Economy's success in creating jobs has essentially nothing to do with its ability to increase exports or cut back imports. I found it particularly interesting that the real factor that limits the overall number of jobs available is the Fed's belief that, if it were to create too many jobs, the result would be unmanageable inflation. The permissive factor does not have to do with the U.S. economy's ability to generate sufficient demand.

2. Again contrary to the belief of many businesspeople, a country that attracts large capital inflows (say, they become the 'hot' new hub for manufacturing in a particular industry and attract billions of dollars from multinationals) will necessarily run a trade deficit! This is basically because they will import some parts of their manufacturing equipment so their important demand will increase, and, at the same time, the investment inflow with either drive up the currency's value (in the case of a floating exchange rate) or the result may be inflation (in the case of a fixed exchange rate); their domestically-produced goods will then be priced out of the export markets, while the purchasing power of their currency will be greater, so import demand will further increase and the result will be a trade deficit.

3. Business strategy and economic analysis are profoundly and fundamentally different, and must be approached and understood as such. A business leader cannot just 'jump' into being an economic manager without some serious schooling: the vocabulary and concepts are different, business accounting is different from national income accounting (measure different things and use different concepts); personnel management and labor law are not the same; corporate financial control and monetary policy are very divergent as well. Furthermore, businesses are open systems that typically experience positive feedback; the U.S. Economy is a closed system that typically experiences negative feedback. "In spite of growing world trade, 70% of U.S. employment and value-added is in industries, such as retail trade, that neither export nor face import competition. In those industries, one U.S. company can increase its market share only at the expense of another, and, furthermore, no matter how well-managed they are, all of the businesses in the same industry would not be able to increase market share exponentially simultaneously. Businesses, on the other hand, can increase share in all of their markets simultaneously if managed well enough to do so, and, if one part of a business is doing well, the feedback to the other parts of the business, or to the business overall, is usually very positive.
Basically, from a management perspective, when someone is running a business, he or she can bake more pies; when someone is running a country, he or she is dealing with many pieces of the same pie.

Who is Paul Krugman and why is there a good chance his words on this topic are valuable?

Paul Krugman is the professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008