Sunday, December 30, 2007

The most popular Brazilian song this year

Boa Sorte (Good Luck), a duet with Vanessa da Mata and Ben Harper.



Facebook friends, click open the post to see the video.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Solidifying my Apple convert status

Apple just permanently sealed my loyalty the other day. It all happened when my hard drive started going out. This was probably my fault. You're never supposed to do a hard shut down (where you hold the power off button for 5 seconds), as it brings the mechanical drive heads to a screeching halt. So it looked like my computer would need to be wiped clean so I could start with a clean slate.

I had years of pictures, music, documents, schoolwork, and data stored on it and I stupidly never backed it up. It would really suck to lose the pictures in particular.

So I heard that Apple stores have the Genius Bar, where they provide on-site technical support for free. It was really crowded when I went to the store in Tucson, so I made an appointment two days in advance for Phoenix. I showed up with just the computer and a young guy named Brad greeted me with a smile. He didn't tell me I was stupid for messing up my computer. He said that while the data would almost certainly be gone on a PC, there was a good chance he could get it back.

He connected an external drive and started the computer with it. He then fixed the directories on my hard drive. I used to know a lot about computers, but now I know the same I did 10 years ago while everyone else knows more. In any regard, my computer was working like new. I should still have to replace my hard drive at some point, but what's important is I got my data backed up.

It didn't cost me anything and the guy was friendly the whole time. How could I then go use a PC, which breaks only to leave to mean, phone based tech support guys.

Oh wait, I know. You can work in the corporate world and so have to use a PC. But alas I will savor my last 2 weeks in the Mac world.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Welcome to the Corporate World

I mentioned that I won an iPod in a drawing at my company holiday party (they had blackjack for raffle tickets but the dealer was paying out 4 to 1 on a blackjack so I bet as much as I could and had a lot of tickets).

Then later I got an email saying the iPod would be reported to the IRS so I would have to pay taxes on it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Don't just hope there's a greater fool!

This NYTimes article chronicles some real estate pain:
But Mr. Jarrett hasn’t closed a deal in three months. He is on track to earn about $50,000 for the year, he said. Yet he needs $17,000 a month just to pay the mortgages, insurance, taxes and utility bills on his four properties — all worth less than half what he owes. Rental income brings in only about $3,500 a month.

When your strategy is just to assume that there will be someone who will pay more than you did, you don't have a good business plan. In so many places the real estate appreciation was far ahead of fundamentals (represented by rent and income). Now that prices aren't rising, there are a lot of people in a world of hurt.

Our case is different. We only buy places that can be rented out profitably. While this severely limits the pool we can choose from (we look every day and rarely does something even fit our preliminary criteria), it means we can do well even if the market tanks. Best case scenario- appreciation and an instant profit. Worst case scenario- take the rental income.

It is mildly annoying that when I tell someone I'm in real estate nowadays they assume things are going terribly. Actually no not at all, they are going well because we are so diligent and conservative.

Anyways I feel so sorry for the overly ambitious people that didn't take the necessary caution and now are facing foreclosure.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Finally fraud comes out as a big reason for the mortgage crisis

This was so very obviously coming. A huge number of the mortgages now going bad in the subprime mortgage crisis are doing so because of overstated income via "liar's loans." I am confident that a very large percentage of loans now going bad are because of this.
Yet the system itself bears blame. The evolution of mortgages into a securities instrument turned loan origination into a competition. Caution gave way to a push for speed and volume. Embroiled in an all-out war for market share, issuers reduced barriers to credit, for example, by offering so-called "stated-income" loans, which require no proof of income. "The stated-income loan deserves the nickname used by many in the industry, the 'liar's loan,' " says the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, which works with lenders to prevent fraud. A recent review of a sampling of about 100 stated-income loans revealed that almost 60% of the stated amounts were exaggerated by more than 50%, MARI says.
I haven't talked a ton about the housing/mortgage crisis, even though it's one of the topics I understand best. Here's my take - everyone is to blame. Here's a list for starters.

Mortgage brokers/bankers/officers - encouraged people to take more mortgage than they could afford and pushed them into products that would give them a higher commission.

Banks and lending institutions - knew that they would immediately sell off loans, and so didn't do due diligence to assure borrowers had sufficient means to make payment.

Ratings agencies- didn't see the lies going on that obviously made the mortgage securities likely to not be paid back in full

Appraisers- just rubber stamped whatever people were paying for the house so as not to lose business.

Buyers- lied about income and assets to get more loans

Real Estate Agents- encouraged people to buy more house. Often worked hand in hand with mortgage brokers.

Investors in mortgage securities- didn't do due diligence to realize that the securities were not really worth what they were supposed to be.

All in all, there were a lot of faults. Now to what the government should do- not as much as people are proposing. The market has learned a lot of lessons that will now be incorporated into everyone's thinking. Covering up mistakes will only do more harm that good.

A few no-downside policy options:

More disclosure and transparency required from the mortgage industry both to borrower's and to buyers of the securities

Allow appraisers more power to give independent appraisals. As appraisers stand now they do basically nothing.....

Hold people accountable for the fraud in the past and make it clear that it is unacceptable.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tikal

A ringing endorsement for Tikal, the ruins in Guatemala that Vanessa and I visited in January this year.

Among Mayan sites, Tikal has long been second banana to Chichén Itzá in Mexico, which was named one of the seven new wonders of the world in July, after a global Internet vote. (Tikal wasn’t even a finalist.) But that popularity seems based on factors other than the ruins themselves. The great advantage of Chichén Itzá is accessibility, in particular, its proximity to the resort towns of the Yucatán Peninsula. It is less lively than Tikal and smaller — its centerpiece a step pyramid that is half the height of some Tikal structures.

Visiting the jungle has its drawbacks, of course. To stay at Tikal longer than a few hours on a midday trip, you must spend a night in the confines of Tikal National Park, which is impossibly humid and filled with mosquitoes. (As it was when I visited in October.) It gets better: the power goes off at night, leaving you hiding under your mosquito net and sweating into your mattress. But for my park entry fee, no ruins can match Tikal’s. Some ancient sites — the Pyramids, the Colosseum — feel monumental. Others — Ephesus, Petra — feel like cities. Stand in the center of Tikal’s Great Plaza, and you will have a feeling of both.

Monday, December 17, 2007

After

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Before

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

New apartment

This is my new roomy Robert. We're putting in better lightbulbs, naturally.
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Anonymous company....

I won an iPod!
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Texas has so much obesity

This is a half portion
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Thursday, December 13, 2007

My friends know cool stuff: Brad Herrin

Brad Herrin probably likes medical school more than anybody. Most future MD's complain about it, but Brad just loves it. I've never met anymore more enthusiastic about learning science. Brad was my roommate senior year, and Jeff and I would often argue such crucually important topics such as "who has a bigger impact on saving lives, doctors or economists?" Now he's at U Washington med school, one of the top in the country.

You once said you get into arguments with yourself as to which organ
is the most important in the human body...so which is it?


In terms of functional significance to your survival, it's difficult
to make a case against the brain. No other organ or organ system
approaches it in terms of sheer complexity. You've got 100 billion
(yes, billion) neurons in your brain, each with up to 10,000 different
connections, and they work in unison, constantly receiving all kinds
of sensory information, processing it, and organizing an appropriate
response, most of which is done without you even thinking about it.

The heart makes a pretty compelling case as well. It's a mechanical
masterpiece. It provides a continuous supply of nutrient-rich blood
to every cell in your body by beating 100,000 times over the course of
a single day. That means the average person's heart will beat over
2.5 billion times and pump the equivalent of 50 million gallons by the
time they turn 70. Pretty tough specs for a pump that's the size of
your fist and weighs less than a pound. Oh yeah, it beats by itself
too. (The brain just acts to regulate heart rate up or down.)

However, my current personal favorite is probably the eye. The fact
that a single photon of light can be detected by photoreceptor cells
in your eye, and then is converted into information that will
ultimately be a visual image boggles me. And then you add in all of
the colors. (I recently read that you can distinguish 500 shades of
gray alone.) I concede that the eye is not the most important organ
(plenty of people lead amazing lives without them), but I'm thoroughly
fascinated by its capabilities.


One of my econ tests once asked why if a med school student drops his
pencil during a test the student next to him kicks it five rows down.
How competitive is med school?


Competition in medical school varies widely. There is certainly an
echelon of schools that have a reputation for being pretty cut-throat.
However, you have competitive people in every school. The issue at
hand is why some schools tend to attract more competitive people than
others. I somehow can't quite picture someone desperate enough to
kick someone else's pencil during a test is, but maybe that's
something they don't screen for at some schools during the interview
process…

An increasing trend among schools in recent years has been to address
this issue by instituting varying degrees of pass-fail grading
systems, the idea being that by taking away "grades" they are creating
an environment that better fosters the development collaboration and
teamwork. However, most schools dilute the system by using grading
schemes that utilize a spectrum of passing that includes "pass with
honors," "high pass," and "pass." (Suspiciously similar to letter
grades, or mere coincidence?)

I can only fairly assess the level of competition in my class, and
I've been pleasantly surprised by the general lack of competition.
We've definitely got a few gunners, but as a whole, my class is super
cooperative. You wouldn't believe the multitude of study guides and
class notes flying around the week before an exam. It will be
interesting to see if this changes over time.

Note: For those of you unfamiliar/uncomfortable with the idea of
medical school being pass/fail, rest assured, schools aren't pumping
out doctors who only know 70% of the material. For one, everyone
still has to pass the various board/licensing exams. And secondly,
just as an example: On our recent Anatomy final, of 180 students,
well over half scored 90 percent or better, and 23 students
accumulated over 98 percent of the total points of the course. Not
too many people just skating by to pass…


Which of the med school dramas do more students in med school watch?
What do they think?

"House" is a clear favorite, mostly because the main character is so
horribly inappropriate, stunningly brilliant, and the antithesis of
the type of doctor most people are striving to become all at the same
time. We've definitely had professors bring up the show on more than
one occasion as an example of how not to do something. (Apparently
"House" is popular among faculty as well, but not for the exhibited
bedside manners.) "Scrubs" has quite a few fans and "Grey's Anatomy"
is popular with the girls.


If a doctor wants to take 2 years off from his private practice to
contribute to society in some way, what would be the best use of the
time?

Things to do:
1.) Health policy and/or advocacy – Doctors should be the strongest
and most vocal advocates for those in need of healthcare.
2.) Research efforts targeting neglected diseases and drug development
– ED and a competitor for Viagra don't count.
3.) Fundraise for a research foundation/health-oriented non-profit –
People love to hear doctors speak.
4.) Work in a free-health care clinic and don't go back to your
private practice.


How has your view of medicine been altered by your experience in Africa?

Completely. When I think about the many months I was fortunate to
have lived and worked in Tanzania, the smooth chatter of Swahili and
the spectacular views of Kilimanjaro are always in stark contrast to
shock and bitter frustration I experienced in my interactions with the
healthcare system, both at the injustice of the situation and at my
inability (then) to alleviate it.

My experiences convinced me that: 1.) health care should be available
and accessible for all, 2.) doctors should be advocates for the poor
and the marginalized, and 3.) as a doctor, I have an obligation to do
more for others since I was blessed enough to be given more (in terms
of privileges and opportunities growing up in the States).

Grace on Corruption

Pay for police officers is abysmal, which means that Rio’s finest often live in favelas and must struggle to make ends meet. And it gets even more complicated and scary, because since Rio’s armed drug gangs are usually based in the favelas, and as you can imagine, they are not too fond of police officers. This means that being a police officer can be incredibly dangerous — both on the job and off. According to what I’ve heard, there are a couple of ways to deal with this: either you go undercover and pray no one realizes you’re a cop, or you come to some sort of “agreement” with the local Comando.

here. And congrats on getting into Yale law!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Berkshire (B shares) above $5000

You've got to be kidding me! How awesome! I hope WEB lives to 100!

And, once again, it goes up on a day when the market is down big.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Brazilians returning to Brazil

And at Brazil’s consulate in Miami, which serves Brazilians in five Southeastern states, officials said a recent survey of moving companies and travel agencies confirmed what they had already surmised from their foot traffic: More Brazilians are leaving the region than arriving — the reversal of an upward curve that seemed unstoppable as recently as 2005, when Brazilians unable to meet tightened visa requirements were sneaking across the United States-Mexico border in record numbers.

here.

Back at UA

I really miss college. Where else will you know literally hundreds of people that you run into on a daily basis. Even a full year after I graduated and a year and a half since my class graduated, I still know lots of people and see others that I somewhat knew when I went out.

I'm staying with my sister, sleeping in either the bed of a roommate that's out of town (one was interviewing with the NBA...jealous) or the couch. I borrowed a friend's mom's car (I will have a car soon...I'm excited), and need to drive back to Phoenix tomorrow to bring it back.

But being here makes me really, really miss college. I love college.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stocks going down- good for many

The economy looks ugly, and the stock market seems poised to fall off a cliff. My suggestion: Cheer up. For most of you, a bear market is a blessing, not a bane.
Here. This is so true. Over the next decades I'm going to buy more stocks, so I'd prefer lower prices even at the expense of what I have now (the caveat being that you want the stocks to go down because people sell them, not because the companies actually do poorly).

And conversely, although it is so exciting to see Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) above $4900 each, I wish they would go down, a lot, so I could buy more.

The type of financial sentence that makes me bang my head on the wall

If the dollar doesn't drop against whichever currency you choose - or if starts climbing versus that currency - you could end up with no gain or even a loss.

No shit Sherlock. Here. And actually the article isn't terrible. That sentence is just typical of everything being dumbed down and zero-value-added.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sign I'm back in the US

Apparently a 70ish year old lady tried smoking in the airplane bathroom, and when we arrived in Phoenix they had 3 police officers get on the plane and arrest her....
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Monday, December 03, 2007

Back in the US

At immigration here in DC, they cleared out the American line fast while the foreigner line barely budged. The foreigners looked pissed, and that's their first impression of the US.....
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

What I'll miss about Rio- summer plate

10 fruits, all tastier than what you get in the US. Plus cheese and turkey, but you'll be so happy with the fruit you want care about that.
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Coming soon to the Guiness book

This picture sucks but it is of a sweet and huge electronic christmas tree on a movable platform on the Lagoa. Apparently it is the tallest ever. They lit it up last night in a packed ceremony.
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And that's a wrap

In a few hours I get on a plane and head home. It's been quite the year. I still have stuff to talk about that I will when I'm back. Here is when I was saying goodbye to Fatima, the lady I lived with for 6 months.
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