The Wild, Wild West of Startups


The tech startup industry is more of a perfect competition than industries like airplane manufacturing or steel-making. It’s the wild, wild west of our age. Low barriers to entry. Lots of competitors. Lots of hype and perceived glory.

If someone tells you they’re quitting his/her job to found a startup, and you don’t really understand what that means, pretend you’re in the 1800s and that person has just told you they’re going West because gold was just discovered in the Klondike.

I Hope the Economy Tanks Because I Just Bought a 3x Leveraged Inverse ETF


Over the last week I’ve changed up my investment portfolio allocation significantly. I’m bearish on the US economy and bought large stakes in inverse ETFs in both my regular and 401k portfolio. I bought some ProShares Short QQQ (PSQ) and ProShares Short S&P 500 (SH). They take rise when the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 indices fall.

This morning, in my most aggressive move, I bought a big chunk of ProShares UltraPro Short MidCap400 (SMDD). This is a 3x leveraged ETF. Yeah…

Engineering Management Advice From a Facebook Manager


A week ago I came across this series of posts by previous Facebook engineering manager Yishan Wong.

I recommend reading all five posts if you work in an engineering or technology related field, especially if you are a manager who works in one. The fifth article argues that technical leaders need to be technical and able to write code:

All external management hires must be able to write code and show a high level of technical proficiency, up to and including the head of the technical department. If the company is a technology company, this should also include the CEO.

There is an odd misconception that this is not a necessary requirement for an executive or manager, as though programming were just a fancy form of typing. No other specialized industry seems to feel this way: banking executives are expected to be able to read a balance sheet; an automotive executive would never be hired if they didn’t know what a catalytic converter did.

This article hit home because I’ve worked at places where the technical leaders weren’t technical. I discovered that this often worked out the detriment of the company, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why until I read this post.

A “technical” organization whose leadership is non-technical fails in one or both of the following ways:

1) Leaders are unable to tell when the technical staff is not performing up to snuff, because they cannot reliably differentiate between excuses for poor technical performance and true obstacles that arise when contending with difficult technical challenges. Performance management then becomes impossible, leading to mediocre work and eventually, outright and repeated project failures.

2) Business needs cause leaders to override the suggestions or opinions of the technical staff. Today’s harsh business environment requires that business leaders push their organizations continually beyond their old boundaries, and sometimes this means that a leader has to tell their staff to “damn the torpedoes” and stretch further than they are comfortable. Unfortunately, a non-technical leader has no personal ability to gauge the actual risk profile of overriding technical suggestions (i.e. shrewdly exceeding old limits in certain special situations) and is then prone to eventually overriding technical advice which should not be overridden.

Wow. In two points, Mr. Wong has articulately explained what I felt long ago. And for that I thank him.

More Creative Ways to Say Happy Birthday


This is part 2 of a previous post on creative ways to say happy birthday. Since that page drives 85% of my site’s traffic, I added more.

Test to see if they’re getting old

  • (On a birthday card, write in very small letters) You are not old if you can read this without using a magnifying glass or even your spectacles!

If they are getting older, tell them this sad truth. Yup, no way around reality.

  • Some words of wisdom for your birthday, “Smile while you still have teeth!”
  • With age comes wisdom. (You’re one of the wisest people I know!)

The Grass Is Greener Syndrome, Why Being Dissatisfied Is Good


When I eat at restaurants with my friends, I’m often indecisive in ordering. I take a while because I’m afraid of being disappointed when my dish arrives. I’ll look at my plate and become unhappy with its small portion, saltiness, or lack of freshness. Then I’ll look over at my friend’s and covet it for its girth, balanced flavor, or fresh-looking ingredients. Buyer’s remorse has hit me once again.

But buyer’s remorse is a only subset of my more general grass-is-greener syndrome.

I Got Pulled Over for Blowing Past a Red…On My Bike


This morning a cop in his cruiser sounded his sirens and motioned for me to pull over. I stopped pedaling. He got out of his car and walked over to me.

“Is there a problem, officer?” I asked.

“You went past a red back there,” he said.


“Can I see your license?”

I handed my driver’s license to him. He disappeared into the cop car for five minutes. I approached the cruiser’s rolled-down passenger window.

“Am I getting a ticket?”


“What does this count as? A moving violation?”

The officer said it was a vehicular violation. There is no point system so it won’t impact my automobile driving record or car insurance rates. The penalty is $50, but the court might only charge me $25 if I’m a first time offender.

Norway Attacker Breivik’s Manifesto and Video


Less than two days after the Oslo bombing and Utøya shootings, journalists and web denizens are digging up the digital finger prints left by Anders Behring Breivik. Norway’s TV2 cited police sources and reported that Breivik uploaded a video to Youtube and a 1,500-page manifesto to Norwegian website

Both the anti-Islam, anti-Marxist manifesto and video reference the Crusades and the dangers of Muslim immigrants and leftist leaders toward Europe.

How to Scrape Data From Pfizer’s Doctor Payments Records


Update: If you just want to download the data, click here.

I was bored this weekend, so I decided to collect some data from the Internet, aka web scraping. Not just any data. I just did a fun tutorial written by Dan Nguyen, a news application developer at the non-profit investigative journalism unit ProPublica. This article teaches you how to collect data on Pfizer’s disclosure of its payments to doctors as required by a $2.3 billion lawsuit alleging it illegally promoted drugs for unapproved uses.

92 Confirmed Dead in Norway Attacks


The bombing and shooting in Norway is a tragedy. 92 people confirmed dead at the hands of single (so far) gunman Anders Behring Breivik. The Times calls the deadliest on Norwegian soil since World War II. The Economist wrote

Relative to Norway’s population, the two attacks taken together are of a similar magnitude to the September 11th hijackings in the United States.