Thursday, September 29, 2011

A discussion of the Stock Market - the traffic analogy

Disclaimer - this was going to be a long and mostly boring post.  But once I got to the end, I realized I had a really awesome and badass point.  Just wanted to give you a heads up. 

You know something that fascinates me?  Traffic.  When I'm sitting in traffic in the mornings, I'll try to put away my inevitable rage from driving down I-95 during rush hour in Philly by thinking about how traffic moves.

Mostly because efforts to convince my wife to lean out the window and offer unsolicited but honest fashion and beauty advice to strangers have been unsuccessful.

The thing that fascinates me about the flow of traffic is an analogy that I came up with when I was first learning about how the stock market operated.  It's overly simplified and mostly wrong, but it was how I first started thinking about how awesome the flow of traffic can be from a theoretical perspective.

So here's the analogy:

Each lane is like a different stock or fund.  You can only see so far down the road, and a lot of times, that short line of sight can prove to be wrong.  You don't know which lane will be the fastest, and your goal is to reach your destination in the quickest way possible.  Thus, you must shift lanes when you think it would benefit you most.  In terms of our analogy, switching lanes would be roughly equal to selling out of one stock and buying into another one.  In this way, reducing time spent driving effectively equals increasing portfolio value.

An interesting thing about traffic, though, is that there are CLEAR sections of the highway where it is absolutely beneficial to be in one lane versus another, which is where the finance analogy really starts to break down.  For example, leading up to an exit, it is in your best interest (assuming your goal is to get to your destination asap) to be in the exiting lane for as long as possible.  But immediately after an exit, when new cars are entering the highway, it is in your best interests to be as far away from those entering cars as possible.  Thus, you have to merge over a few lanes in a very short distance in order to get to the most beneficial lane.

Knowing that there is a clear way to advantage of a situation is called arbitrage in finance.  If there's an obvious mis-pricing of a stock, an arbitrageur (someone who engages in arbitrage) will try to profit by exploiting that mis-pricing.  It's obviously more complicated than this, but it serves our purposes here.  Finance theory says that arbitrageurs will exploit this mis-pricing to the point where the stock comes back in line with its fundamental value, thus erasing that mis-pricing.

So, I was sitting in traffic yesterday, because some jerk-face decided to crash his car into another car so badly that at the very beginning of rush hour, there was already a 45 minute delay (how dare he?).  And I was driving about 20-25 mph down the road in the lane leading up to an exit while everyone else was stopped dead.  Just before the exit, I merged and ended up saving myself a good 15 minutes of sitting.  I started thinking about how I was an arbitrageur.  But why was it that no one else was taking advantage of this "obvious mis-pricing"?  There were maybe one or two, but not enough to completely erase the advantage, like what would happen in a financial setting.

Then I laughed cynically to myself, realizing from the middle finger of the guy I cut off to merge over that, well, I was just driving like an asshole.  Apparently, morality has a place in society after all - serving as the deterrent for dick-like behavior.

But what does that say about the world of finance?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Of Advisers and Interviews

I have an interview this afternoon.  It's nothing big, and I don't have my hopes very high about it, but it's my first real-person interview since college. 

Sure, I've had other interviews since then, but they've mostly been those all-commission jobs where the company you work for has absolutely no incentive to keep you around and so they hire everyone who applies.  If you drop out, oh well, some other poor sap will come and be their warm body to fill their "entrepreneurial role".  In this setting the word "entrepreneurial" is just a euphemism for "hey, why don't you work your ass off setting yourself up, and we'll just take a slice of your pay?"

This is how most financial adviser companies operate.  (I say most because there are some legitimate ones out there).  Another word about financial advisers: please, please, please, never ever use them.  You can learn enough over the weekend to make what they do completely obsolete, and they take a huge chunk of your money (your RETIREMENT money) to offer you products that are handed down to them by their parent company.  This chunk can be anywhere from 0.5% to 2%, and when you start to get a crap-load of money in your account, 0.5% to 2% is a LOT of your hard-earned retirement dough.  In addition, Most financial advisers are paid to sell you generic crap that their parent company is getting on discount, and they're getting a significant commission to peddle to unsuspecting people who think investing is too complicated.  It's pretty much the definition of conflict of interest. 

Moving on, my wife was prepping me this morning on our way to work.  A significant portion of her job recently has been interviewing candidates, and so she's become pretty adept at asking interviewing questions.

So she started hammering me with these ridiculous questions to "prep" me for the interview.  "Tell me about yourself". "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?".  "Tell me about a time when you handled yourself under stress".  "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"

And every time I started talking, she corrected me, saying "Don't say that, you'll sound like a total douchebag idiot with tiny deer poop pebbles fermenting in your skull from which the methane produced by the feces is slowly condensing and forming thoughts for you".  Thank you, my love - you're so kind.

Who came up with these insane questions to ask?  There's no way these questions can really form a good impression of a candidate that will perform well in an analytical role.  Most people who are good at math/science/analysis are terrible social people.  Why can't the interview process be more like a test, where they sit you down with a long list of math, science, and finance problems increasing difficulty and let the best score win?  Maybe some geography thrown in there just for good measure.  Because damn, I like geography.

I expressed this to my wife, who said, "See?  you should have stuck through with your engineering major if you didn't want to talk to people and instead answer math/science problems all day". 

Thanks again, my love - I really love it when you answer one of my problems with telling me about all my other problems.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Memory: Jotting it Down so it Won't Run Away

Memory is funny.  Funny in the way that the guy at the circus who is performing magic tricks accidentally catches on fire and you're not sure if it's part of the act or not.

For example, I remember that when I was 11, I tried to do a flip off of the swing set.  As my backward movement came to a halt while swinging, I threw my head forward, let go of the chains and tried to flip onto the ground.  As anyone normal would have expected, I landed on my face, broke my wrist, and when asked about it later, I told my dad and everyone else that I had simply "fallen off the swings" because I thought they would get mad at me for trying to do a backflip. I remember being incredibly worried that my dad would find out what I was really doing and get angry with me.  I remember him telling me to walk to the hospital (which was only about a half mile from my school where I had the accident) and I remember the walk.

But I don't remember ever getting treatment for it or even having a cast on my wrist.  If I remember so vividly the lie I was trying to pull off over the span of five or ten minutes, why don't I remember having a tremendously limiting plaster appendage for 6 weeks?  I can't even remember which arm it was, or whether the cast was full arm, or half arm.

Memory is funny.

When I was 18 or 19 (as much as I try, I still can't really place it), I dropped out of college, dropped out of ROTC (and in the process lost my full ride for aerospace engineering), and ended up living on the floor of my buddy's bedroom in Virgina for about three or four months.  I vividly remember turning in my uniform back to the ROTC people, and vividly remember calling my parents on Easter (who had moved away and left me behind to sleep on that guy's floor) sobbing and begging for them to come save me.  I have no idea how it was decided that I would sleep on this guy's floor, why my parents decided to move and leave me behind, or really, what the hell I did for three to four months.  I know I spent a good deal of time at Chili's.  Because, damn - they've got good boneless buffalo wings, and I knew the waitstaff there, so they hooked me up with wings and beer.

And the more time goes by, the more I realize I'm either losing my memories of my teenage/childhood years or corrupting them with influences of my adult life.  So I decided to start writing down those memories.  Which is what this is the prototype of.

I want to be able to look back and be able to really decipher and catalog what it was that happened prior when I was 20. Yes, the memory confusion leads up until then.  Even a little bit afterward, but when I start putting down all the memories, you'll understand why.

These posts will likely not be very funny.  Except, perhaps, in a dark way.  But they'll be cathartic.  Cathartic and revealing.  Because the majority of the memories I have from my teenage years and before definitely do not paint me in a very good light.  And I think it'll be good to get a lot of them off of my chest.  Some of these stories I've been holding onto forever.

And if other people would like to ridicule and reveal unflattering tales of themselves from before they were real humans (i.e. teenagers) perhaps I'll make this into a link-up meme.  Perhaps not.  Because, honestly, who wants to tell awful stories about themselves?

Me.  I do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I normally don't follow celebrities.  I think it's a giant waste of time worrying about people you'll never meet, or will never have an effect on your life.

BUT THIS IS DIFFERENT.  Why?  Because it shows a couple very important things that I've been pounding the table about for as long as I had fists.

So, what's the impetus for all this fluff'n stuff?  Justin Bieber has finally admitted the obvious: he wears women's pants.

"They're comfortable," he said. "I like the way that they feel around my ankles when I sit down to pee," he continued.  Ok, I'll admit he only said the first thing. But he was thinking the second thing.

What's wrong with this is that there is a giant shift in what's sexy these days, and I'm not happy about it.  It used to be that guys like this were swooned over.

Arnold ripped this tree out of the ground.  Chainsaws are for wusses.

This dude, while a bit of a tool, is definitely hoss.

May as well be "Huge Jacked-up-man"

I know some people will be like, wait, what about Ryan Reynolds?  Chicks dig him, right?

His face says, "I like dudes" but his body says, "Shut up, face"

He doesn't count.  He married Scarlett Johansson and couldn't make it work.  You lose, buddy.

Moving on, I'm finding that it's guys like this who are becoming much more mainstream for women to swoon over.

Yes, this is a guy.  Google Bill Kaulitz, but be prepared to cry first.
This dude, Bieber, the super skinny and pale dude from twilight, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, even Usher and JT.  All dudes that shop in the women's section.  Though JT is pretty awesome and can do pretty much whatever he wants.  I'm ok with JT.

Ok, I get the whole, "I want to look androgynous and woman-y to either make a statement, or be weird" thing that celebrities often do.  Boy George.  David Bowie.  Ernest Hemingway.  But seriously, does this sort of thing appeal to women?

I was always of the opinion that while, yes, we live in a time when physical prowess means little in the way of being able to protect your loved ones from the random attacking puma/ocelot, women still enjoy feeling that a man could protect her in some situation of hypothetical grave danger.  It's sexist, yes, I confess.  But when there's a saber-tooth tiger chasing you, you likely want a guy who will wrestle that stupid cat down and wear its teeth as a hat.  Something like what 50 cent would do.

Bullet holes?  Or Saber tooth tiger tusk puncture wounds?  You decide.
And while I'm married, and no longer in the market for super hot chicks (I got mine already), this shift of the male physique definitely still has an effect on my daily life.

For example, when I was much younger, I did some next-level bodybuilding.  Thus, I've still got the same frame, though without the same level of physique.  So when I walk into any store with cool clothes, say - H&M for example (but it really is just about every other store), I will try on a shirt. I'll pick up a large, because, well, I'm a big dude.  When I put a large shirt on, I expect it to either fit perfectly, or be too effing big.

Not at H&M.  Whenever I'm there trying to put on an extra-super large shirt, I feel like I'm this guy:

LARGE SHIRTS BARELY FIT ME.  They apparently cut the shirts super tight in the chest and arms so big dudes like me can't wear anything but trash bag clothes.

This is why  I'm opening up a store for real men.  And I'm calling it H,B&M "Hoss Badass Mothafuckas".  And there will be an entrance requirement.  You can't come in unless you can bench your own weight.  And the store will be filled with shirts that have regularly sized arm holes.  And other things, like a steak bar.  It's like a salad bar, but only with steak.  And a lion will guard the register - you have to get past the lion to checkout.  Also? Complimentary protein shakes.  I'll also have to work in arm-wrestling somewhere in there too.

What do you think?  Viable business model?  Whatever, I'll "crush" the competition.  Sorry, I'm even a little embarrassed about that terrible joke.

So anyway, what does "sexy" mean anymore?  Is it about primal subconscious concerns about protection, like in the cases of the big dudes above?  Is it about beauty and sensitivity, like in the cases of the woman-y men previously mentioned?  Or is it about something completely different?  like, say, intelligence or personality?

HAHA - ok, now that we've gotten that joke out there, we can all agree it's not about either of those.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Many Advancements of Sammy

It's been a while since I've updated Sammy's status.  And the past month or so has pretty much been the month of the badass for him, so I think it's worth chronicling now.

First off - he gained three pounds in as many weeks.  While this might not sound desirable for those health-conscious people out there, remember that he is a baby.  Staying 15 pounds forever is unhealthy and weird.  And while this might not sound that impressive, given that I can drink a half-gallon of water in one sitting, which is 4 pounds gained in less than ten minutes, remember again that he is a baby.  3 pounds to a 15 pound baby is like, a million percent of your body weight.  That would be like if I went from 200 pounds to 240 in three weeks.  Don't tempt me, especially with the holidays fast approaching.

Second - once he packed on the pounds like a giant lardo, he leveled off and focused on getting to regular human status.  This means he popped out TWO TEETH SIMULTANEOUSLY.  He was all like, "yo, all you otha babies are weak with your whole one teeth at a time wussy-pants thing".  And he didn't even get fussy, as if to reiterate his badassness.

He also went from dry-humping the air in a kind of awkward rocking motion on all fours to 100% legitimately crawling in under a week.  Ok, maybe he crawls like he's a goose-stepping horse, but a victory's still a victory.  And just to make sure we're all aware of his stubbornness, he STILL refuses to sit.

This foal is seeking Kyle

And with these two huge unexpectedly amazing advancements, he finally learned how to suck on things.  I always thought this was the first thing babies learned - but not with this one.  But we gave him a strawberry and his head almost exploded from happiness and deliciousness.

Which brings us to our last advancement - he's starting to have fits.  Already.  We took the strawberry away from him after it was done, and he (for the first time ever) fell into a fit of rage and then depression.  He screamed like someone was shooting him in the face, then peeing on him, and then kicking and peeing on his dog.

Psh, joke's on him though - he doesn't even HAVE a dog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We're off the hook!

I’m girly girl. I love shoes and makeup and fixing my hair. 

Whoa, whoa, whoa - oops, I didn't mean to say that.  There was a slight mix up due to my being overly exhausted.  It just so happens that that's the first line of my spectacular guest poster today, Amanda @ It's Blogworthy. not a fan of makeup.  I swear - it was just that one time for Halloween.

Moving on...Amanda is a spectacular girl with a spectacular family and a love for her kid like no other.  And on top of that, she's funny, and clever and, above all else, endearing.  I think after reading this, you'll know what I mean.  And on top of all that, this post is probably one of my favorites ever created by anyone. Read on, and you'll see.

I’m girly girl. I love shoes and makeup and fixing my hair. 

I don’t like sports or getting dirty. I hate to sweat. My favorite color is pink. I spend my weekends watching the likes of Project Runway and Toddlers and Tiaras.

So you’d think, based on all those facts, that I would have longed for a little girl to dress in the fluffiest pink skirts, bald head adorned with a flower bigger than her face.

And you’d be wrong.

Of course we did the thing where we said “Oh, we don’t care if we have a boy or a girl. Just as long as he/she is healthy.” That was totally true, too. I would have loved a little girl and yes, any daughter of mine would have had a whole mess of ginormous hairbows. Deep down inside, both of us walked into the ultrasound room over a year ago with an unspoken desire to have a son.

We walked out of the office that day with a print out of our son’s junk, an arrow artfully pointed to it with a caption that read “BOY!!!!” (as if it wasn’t obvious) with a spring in our step. At our celebratory dinner that night, we listed all the things we wouldn’t have to worry about now that we knew we’d be having a boy: no evenings chaperoning a boyband concert; no periods to explain; not prom dresses to buy. Weddings? WE’RE OFF THE HOOK! *HIGH FIVE*

Little girls? They are great. But I was a teenage girl. My husband teaches teenage girls. Teenage girls aren’t fun. So, ok, we’d have years before we dealt with teenage hormones, but before then? Listen, I read your people’s blogs. You, there --  with the daughter who at 3 years old has already sassed you more TODAY than I have sassed anyone for six months – I’m sure that’s cute for like four days.

Ok, ok. I know I’m stereotyping greatly here, but the fact of the matter is, my husband hates being bored. Having a little boy to teach the important things in life – like basketball and eating steak and whatever else is important to men – was and is really appealing to him. He’ll have a buddy. And I’m looking forward to the day when we can all go to the beach and my husband and son can play catch or make sandcastles and leave me alone to soak in the sun and read a book for crying out loud.

I’m also secretly hoping to have a sweet little mama’s boy who likes to treat his Mom like a Queen.

They say, "Know your Audience" and she was spot on when she wrote this post.  I think I mention nerf gun fights at least once a week on this blog, and there won't be any nerf fighting with a daughter.  Unless  I'm misunderstanding what a daughter is. But I don't think I am. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

How we Remember

9/11 means a different thing for every single person.

Some people choose to use the day to remember the heroes of the homeland who fought to save lives at great risk to their own.  Some people choose to use the day to remember how vulnerable our country is.  Some people choose to use the day to remember that there are crazy nut-job people in every corner of the earth, in every culture, and in every religion. 

The LEAST we can do is provide healthcare for them.

But I think the unfortunate thing about this is that the majority of people only remember these things on 9/11.  They need a holiday to remind them that there are both heroes and nut-jobs everywhere, and that our country has a giant scar across its face that will likely never heal.

What's the difference between two months ago and today?  Two months ago, no one was even mentioning 9/11.  For the most part - people were mostly just going about their day, chatting with their neighbors about Kim Kardashian's wedding and did Jada cheat on Will and other similarly ridiculous things.  Today, people are posting on Facebook about how they'll "Never Forget".  Two months from now, it will again be back to trivial distractions.

I think it's a bit silly.  If you're going to remember the tragic events, remember the tragic events. Carry it with you every single day.  Of course, don't dwell on it, but don't let that memory sit untouched for 10 years only to resurface with phony tributes in your Facebook status.

I was walking with my wife yesterday to the playground so that Sammy could get his swing on (he loves the swings).  We noticed how uncharacteristically dead quiet the playground was, and commented on how it was likely because most people were observing 9/11 in some way or another.  I told my wife how fake I thought it was, and just like every other time we discuss something - she told me I was stupid.

She told me about the Russian Orthodox tradition, where people who lose a family member will set a place setting (complete with shot glass) out for them at the table for the 9 days (or 40 days, I wasn't really listening, and she definitely said the number 40 about something) after their death to commemorate their passing.  Then one year after their passing, they will put a memorial stone on their grave, and every year on the anniversary of their passing, they will light a candle.

Apparently, after a quick Google search, this is not an uncommon practice.

But the way I see it is: what's so special about that day?  Don't you carry the memory of that person with you every minute of every day?  Their death is no more or less significant to you one year later than it is ten years and three months.  It's a tragedy, simple as that.  And it always will be a tragedy.

So for me, when that fateful time comes, I plan on not doing anything special to commemorate.  I'll just keep it in my back pocket, carrying it with me always.  Same as what I do with 9/11.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Negotiating Your Marriage

Whoop, BAM big-a-dee boom!  These are the kinds of sounds you'll hear in your ears when you read KLZ's blog called Taming Insanity.  Mostly because it's a whole crazy land of insane over there, and to be perfectly honest, taming that insanity is more of a process than you'd imagine.  My suspicion?  Cute kid syndrome.  It gets the best of us sometimes.  AND she's got a second one on the way, so she's doubly screwed by the cute. 

But the nice part is - she's got a husband who is ok with a little bit of the nutso.  

So to cut to the chase - she's agreed to guest-post for me because she's super, duper awesome - and likely also because she was the person who really got me getting into the whole "blogging" thing in the first place, which plays into it somehow, I'm sure.  She is sarcastic and sweet all at the same time, which pretty much makes her the best person ever.

DISCLAIMER: Dear Bill’s readers: I have been trying to write this post for two weeks. I keep coming up with ideas that seem interestingly random and then falling flat on my face. I’m trying for you, I really am. My point is: pretend you like this so Bill doesn’t send his father-in-law after me. I hear he’s got a guy.

I recently started a conversation with my husband. Now, husbands may refer to this type of conversation as “Nagging” but years of working in Corporate America has taught me that it is really called “Level Setting”.

“David,” I said casually while checking Twitter, “I’ve really been trying to keep the house clean lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

Like any good husband, he was wary and refrained from speaking to me.

“Now, I know we’ve got a lot going on,” I continued, “but I think we need to set some priorities before the baby gets here. Our closet needs to be organized and the garage is a mess.”

“I told you it was your job to get that Jacuzzi out of the garage,” he was quick to point out to 5 months pregnant wife. I ignored him.

“So, those things are things I really think we need to focus on in the next two months. I also need to buy diapers, wash the baby’s clothes and determine what we need to buy the boys’ for their winter wardrobe.”

“Wah wah wah, wah wah wah, wah wah wah wah,” heard my husband.

“But what’s really important is this,” I continued on. “I hate the goddamn vacuum. I need you to know that I am never, ever going to vacuum upstairs. If you think that needs to be done more often, that’s on you. Because while I should do it, I won’t. I need you to be aware of that so that you don’t get any unrealistic expectations.”

“When have you EVER vacuumed upstairs?” he spit, suddenly slightly outraged.

“Never,” I confirmed. “I need you to know that won’t change. Not while we get ready for this next baby, not while I’m on maternity leave, not if I become a stay at home mom. I’ll do laundry and dishes and cook. Hell, I’ll scrub toilets but I absolutely will not vacuum upstairs. I thought you should know.”

He was quiet. For a long time. I’m not sure he knew how to respond without getting slapped. Although he could have been fuming that I hadn’t yet disposed of the Jacuzzi that was sitting in our garage.

“Well honey,” he responded some hours later, “you should know: laundry is my vacuuming. Never gonna happen.”

“Duly noted,” I replied.

And that is how you set levels. Suck it, Corporate America. You ain’t got nothing on us.

Pew pew pew!  Did you hear those sounds of laser-y awesomeness?  If so, head over to Taming Insanity and tell her just how cool she is.  Thank you for guest posting, KLZ!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stasha from Northwest Mommy is Guest Posting!

Dear everyone who thinks that Communism is bad: Please read the guest post from Stasha (who is the curator of Northwest Mommy) who has hard evidence to the fact that Communism is awesome. 

This is a true story.

I grew up with my grandparents in a small country in the heart of Europe. Back then it belonged to Yugoslavia. Much like Bill’s lovely wife I was raised in a socialist system. Except all my memories are fond.

My grandpa was a high-ranking officer in National army. He joined the Academy young, not long after the 2nd world war ended. Like many of his peers, being a child of war gave him a unique perspective on life. He was a proud and hardworking man. But most of all, he was a man of honor.

Back at the end of 60’s, the town near Lake Bled planned to build a campsite for tourists to enjoy. The area was marshy and a few contractors failed to drain it properly. The mayor contacted the government and my grandfather was asked to assist. He was an engineer and his department was deployed to give the grounds one last try.

It is of course a happy story. They managed to drain it, and since then, it has been a five star camping ground. In return my grandfather was offered a bid at a lot to build his dacha on. (Note from Bill - for those who don't know, a dacha is like a house in the country side...pretty much required for all people of society in Eastern European countries) He declined.  Afterward he mentioned he had to stop at the chocolate factory to pick up some giant bars for his three daughters, but the mayor sent him some as a thank you.

My grandma repeated this story many times. I think there was a longing in her voice, regret that her husband never provided her with a luxurious summer retreat. He was a civic servant, an officer doing his job. She never understood him.

In socialism we were all given equal privileges and responsibilities; in return we were expected to be productive members of society. Grandpa was never politically involved, but he followed the principles and accepting a gift was against everything he stood for.

He was my role model, my hero. I hope one day, soon, my son and I go camping back home. I will tell him a story of his great grandfather. It is worth so much more then a summerhouse ever would be.

Thank you, Stasha, for sharing a truly touching story about your Grandpa.  My wife's father is trained as a Marsh-draining engineer as well - small world.  And also, thank you for showing the beauty of Communism - which is: if you do something good for the government, you can get some giant chocolate bars in return.  And seriously, who doesn't like chocolate?

Go on over to Stasha's and check out her blog, which she shares with her adorable son who is gutsy enough to sport pink Chuck Taylor's and massive Newfoundland dog who does shag carpet impressions.