What Parents Know

3 Nov 2015 /

Children grow up. Love is day by day. Letting go is not easy.

Hanging Out With the Cal Drum Line

1 Nov 2015 /

Cal drum line

We Have Entered a New Screwball Phase

30 Oct 2015 /

Peggy Noonan had a good article in the Wall Street Journal this week about, among other things, two departures: Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, and Joe Biden as a presidential candidate.

On Harper’s successor:

[Incoming Canadian prime minister] Justin Trudeau has been a snowboard instructor, schoolteacher, bartender, bouncer, speaker on environmental and youth issues, and advocate for avalanche safety. Sensing “generational change” and gravitating toward “a life of advocacy,” he entered politics and served two terms in Parliament. He has been head of the Liberal Party two years. He is handsome, has a winning personality, exhibited message discipline during the campaign, and is a talented dancer. There’s a sense we in the West have entered a new screwball phase.

On Biden and old-school Democrats:

Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president left me sad. He would have enlivened things. He has always reminded me of what Democrats were like when I was a kid—kind of normal and earthy and fun. They did not spend their time endlessly accusing people of being sexist-racist-homophobic-gender-biased persons of unchecked privilege. They would have thought that impolite.

My Hidden Talent

30 Oct 2015 /

My hidden talent is in concealing the fact that I don’t have any hidden talent.

Oops . . .


God: “I Gave Him a Sign”

30 Oct 2015 /
Death by Freeway Sign

I hope I don’t die some cartoonish death like skiing into a tree or being launched out of my car and flattened against a freeway sign. It’s funny when it happens to other people though.

The only thing funnier would be if he’d left a spread-eagle person-shaped hole in the sign and then died when he hit a second sign.

When reached for comment, God said, “I gave him a sign.”

Could Donald Trump Have Made More Money in an Index Fund?

28 Oct 2015 /
Trump blurb

Click to enlarge

I’ve seen this theory advanced by multiple sources, including the attached clipping, which I saw on Facebook. I don’t know the original source, but the finger-painting reference is a clue that the author has an anti-Trump agenda, hasn’t done the math and is just repeating something that may or may not be true for the benefit of anyone predisposed to believe it.

The actual National Journal article, which is targeted at readers who don’t know much about history, math or the Trump family, says this:

By putting his inheritance into the stock market back in the 1970s, [Donald] Trump might have been “really rich” without all the drama. . . . Had the celebrity businessman and Republican presidential candidate invested his eventual share of his father’s real-estate company into a mutual fund of S&P 500 stocks in 1974, it would be worth nearly $3 billion today, thanks to the market’s performance over the past four decades.

One big problem with that analysis: Donald Trump didn’t have an inheritance in the 1970s. His father, Fred Trump, was alive until 1999. When the author talks about Donald Trump investing his “eventual share,” what is he talking about? You can’t in 1974 invest an inheritance that you’re not going to have until 1999.

Donald and Fred Trump

Donald and Fred Trump

How much money exactly did Trump inherit? I couldn’t tell you, but working backward from the National Journal analysis, in order to have $3 billion today, you would have had to invest about $35 million in the S&P 500 in 1974.

Fred Trump died in 1999 with a net worth of $250-300 million. He had five children, one of whom predeceased him, so after estate tax and perhaps some charitable bequests, $35 million per child should at least be in the ballpark.

Had Donald Trump invested that amount in the S&P 500 when he actually received it in 1999, it would be worth about $70 million today, which is not bad, it’s more than I’ve got, but it wouldn’t make him a billionaire.

If he’d invested the $200 million that Forbes magazine determined he was worth in 1982 into that index fund, it would have grown to more than $8 billion today.

The math is right . . . the S&P 500 has increased about 4,000% since 1982. But why 1982? The author selected 1982 for a very particular reason, although he doesn’t say what the reason is.

He tosses off 1982 like one date is as good as another so let’s go with 1982, and relies on readers not knowing or caring what he’s up to.

In 1982, the stock market had been flat for almost 15 years, after which it took off on the greatest bull market in history. Today, in 2015, anyone can tell you that you should have invested your entire net worth in the stock market in 1982. Even a modest $25,000 investment in 1982 would have allowed you to take up finger-painting and still be a millionaire today.

Making great investment decisions retroactively is very easy, like taking a test when you already know the answers.

The author dishonestly uses the S&P 500 as a proxy for average economic performance but picks a starting point, 1982, from which stock market performance was not only not average, it was historically unprecedented. It was the optimal investment point in American history.

Same objection applies to his previous example of a hypothetical S&P 500 investment in 1974. Why 1974? Because in 1974, the stock market was lower than any point since the early 1960s, and in hindsight can be identified as an optimal investment point for maximum return.

I live in fear of my own inadequacy. True story.

Posted by on 27 Oct 2015

Haas, Campanile, Sunset

24 Oct 2015 /

No One Seems to Understand Point Spreads

24 Oct 2015 /

I lost track of the number of headlines I saw this week regarding how USC (3-3) could possibly be a 3.5-point favorite over undefeated and third-ranked Utah (6-0).

USC logo

It’s weird that no one in sports journalism seems to understand what a point spread really is.

It’s not a prediction. It’s not a scientific analysis. It’s a gambling mechanism. The only purpose of a point spread is to distribute the betting equally on both teams so the bookmaker can pay the winners with the losers’ money.

USC is a 3.5-point favorite for one reason and one reason only and that is because there are more people willing to bet on USC than there are people willing to bet on Utah, so a carrot is offered in the form of 3.5 points to induce more bettors to put their money on the Utes.

Substitute any other team . . . Team X is a betting favorite because more people want to bet on Team X than on Team X’s opponent.

“Team X is a betting favorite” is not the same thing as “Vegas thinks X is the better team.” Vegas has no opinion on who has the better team. That’s why point spreads fluctuate, sometimes by a lot. If too much money comes in on Team X, the point spreads changes to be more favorable to X’s opponent.


I can’t wait for President Trump to outlaw “For English, press 1” on automated phone systems.

Posted by on 23 Oct 2015


16 Oct 2015 /

I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an ape man.

Why Jennifer Lawrence Makes Less Than Bradley Cooper

14 Oct 2015 /
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence is complaining (Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?) that she and American Hustle co-star Amy Adams received 7 percent of the profits for the film, while male actors Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale and director David Russell received 9 percent.

The only explanation I can think of for this inequity is that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were willing to work for 7 percent. It doesn’t make sense to sign a deal for 7 percent and then complain that you didn’t get 9 percent. If you want 9, ask for 9. If it’s going to bother you to make less than a male co-star, ask for the same deal as the male co-star.

Does Jennifer Lawrence have an agent? This doesn’t seem super complicated . . .

See You in Hell

11 Oct 2015 /


[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan — PE]

I’m hearing a lot of Orange County residents complaining about the heat this weekend. Take it from someone who knows about heat: 98 degrees is not heat. You’ll see what I’m talking about soon enough. Enjoy the 98-degree temperatures while you can.

On a related note, why does everyone say “Jesus Christ, it’s hot” and no one says “Satan, it’s hot”?

See you in Hell . . .

Pange Lingua

10 Oct 2015 /
Lakewood, CA 1950

Lakewood, CA 1950 (Photo credit: William A. Garnett)

Dulce lignum,
Dulces clavos,
Dulce pondus sustinet.

Sweet the wood,
Sweet the nails,
Sweet the weight you bear.

Does Anyone Else See a Problem Here?

9 Oct 2015 /


Time Passes and Love Fades

7 Oct 2015 /

What Can Be Done About Gender Diversity in Computing?

6 Oct 2015 /

That is the question posed in, among other places, the October 2015 issue of Communications of the ACM.

Since gender is no longer a biological imperative connected to one’s physical anatomy, there’s now a simple answer to this. Men (and women, but that’s not relevant to this question) can identify as either gender, independent of reproductive organs and chromosomes, and a thoughtful consideration of the uniqueness and validity of every person’s experiences of self requires a societal stamp of approval.

Google or Facebook or any organization that wants to improve its gender diversity metrics can offer some modest incentive (could be financial, could be you use the women’s locker room at the company gym … use your imagination!) for workers to identify as female. Have a 50 percent female workforce by Friday!

Now that I’ve written this down I’m thinking that maybe I should be starting up a diversity consulting firm rather than giving the idea away for nothing. Room for expansion: Racial identity is fluid now as well (see here and here).

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Mutual Admiration

5 Oct 2015 /

Our boy is very handsome, his mom says. She says she can’t understand how that happened.

“You don’t think I’m handsome?” I ask.

“We’re average-looking people, let’s be honest about it. You don’t agree?”

“I think you’re very beautiful.”

“You’re very handsome,” she says, after a pause almost too short to notice.

Frankie Ford, 1939-2015

4 Oct 2015 /

I have a quote for you on that “One-Hit Wonder” thing. I’d like to go on record right here saying, whoever that disc jockey was that coined that phrase, well he’s a no-hit wonder! I mean, it can get rude. A DJ did that to me one time in his introduction. I turned to him and said, “Well, you’re a no-hit wonder. What have you ever done?” Some people have five records that sell a million each. Some sell none. I’ve had one that sold 30 million! And I’ve outlived that one record. I’ve been 38 years at this and it’s still going.

RIP, Frankie Ford

My Name is Fido

3 Oct 2015 /

From an actual email:


My name is Fido and I’m an IT recruiter at TechDigital Corporation. We are currently hiring a .Net Developer/Software Engineer preferrably [sic] with experience in the Financial domain for a W2 or C2C Contract for one of our direct clients in Green Bay, WI.

Fido Xavier

  1. I live in California. Are there no software engineers in Wisconsin or anywhere between California and Wisconsin?
  2. On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

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