Thursday, July 31, 2008

Furoshiki - Carrying stuff with a square of nylon or silk cloth

The cloth material appears to matter because it affects the strength of the knot, as well as ease of disassembling the knot.

A brief video showing some basic techniques

A web page showing more techniques

The wine bottle technique is pretty cool, if only because it is vastly better than the token paper bag approach used currently by grocery stores. A square of silk or nylon cloth is more packable than a single-purpose reusable shopping bag, you can tie it so it has handles, and if something spills or breaks, the cloth is washable.

This is the type of low-tech, low-cost, high-effectiveness solution that I like.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Efficient Investing

The second article uses the term "lazy", which was the original title of this post, but I prefer to think of it as efficient - efficient in time, money, and effort.

Link to "The best investment advice you'll never get"

One by one, some of the most revered names in investment theory were brought in to school a class of brilliant engineers, programmers, and cybergeeks on the fine art of personal investing...

Stanford University’s William (Bill) Sharpe, 1990 Nobel Laureate economist and professor emeritus of finance at the Graduate School of Business:
“Don’t try to beat the market,” he said. Put your savings into some indexed mutual funds, which will make you just as much money (if not more) at much less cost by following the market’s natural ebb and flow, and get on with building Google.

Burton Malkiel, formerly dean of the Yale School of Management and now a professor of economics at Princeton and author of the classic A Random Walk Down Wall Street:
Don’t try to beat the market, he said, and don’t believe anyone who tells you they can—not a stock broker, a friend with a hot stock tip, or a financial magazine article touting the latest mutual fund.

John Bogle, "Saint Jack", is the living scourge of Wall Street. Though a self-described archcapitalist and lifelong Republican, on the subject of brokers and financial advisers he sounds more like a seasoned Marxist:
Ignore them all and invest in an index fund. And it doesn’t have to be the Vanguard 500 Index, the indexed mutual fund that Bogle himself built into the largest in the world. Any passively managed index fund will do, because they’re all basically the same.

But the premise of indexing is that stock prices are generally an accurate reflection of a company’s worth at any given time, so there’s no point in trying to beat that price. The worth of a client’s investment goes up or down with the ebb and flow of the market, but the idea is that the market naturally tends to increase over time. Moreover, even if an index fund performed only as well as the expensively managed Merrill Lynch Large Cap mutual fund that was in my portfolio, I would earn more because of the lower fees.

Over the last 21 years, chief investment officer David Swensen has averaged a 16 percent annual return on Yale University’s investment portfolio, which he built with everything from venture capital funds to timber. “Invest in nonprofit index funds,” he says unequivocally. “Your odds of beating the market in an actively managed fund are less than 1 in 100.”

Link to "8 Lazy Portfolios"

What are Lazy Portfolios? Just simple, boring versions of a proven Nobel prizing-winning strategy: Well-diversified portfolios of no-load, low-cost index funds that require little balancing and no active trading, yet they're winners in bear and bull markets. And so easy, anyone can set them up.

The portfolio I like:
33% in VIPSX (Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities)
33% in VTSMX (Vanguard Total Stock Market Index)
33% in VGTSX (Vanguard Global Stock Market Index)

Alternative for VIPSX is Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VBMFX).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barefoot is better?

Link to Article

It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot." In other words: Feet good. Shoes bad.

Brennan brought his shoe to Clark, and after some modifications, they came up with a very flexible leather shoe with a three-millimeter sole made of rubber and puncture-resistant DuraTex that they call the Vivo Barefoot. "There are no gimmicks," Clark says. "It's a back-to-basics philosophy: that the great Lord designed us perfectly to walk around without shoes."

Epidemiologically speaking, it's been estimated that, by age 40, about 80 percent of the population has some muscular-skeletal foot or ankle problem. By age 50 to 55, that number can go up to 90 or 95 percent." Ninety-five percent of us will develop foot or ankle problems? Yeesh. Those are discouraging numbers—but wait. Are we talking about 95 percent of the world population, or of North America? "Those are American figures," he says. Which makes me think, North Americans have the most advanced shoes in the world, yet 90 percent of us still develop problems? We've long assumed this means we need better shoes. Maybe it means we don't need shoes at all.

Shoes that advertise the barefoot attitude
Nike Free
Vivo Barefoot
Vibram Fivefingers
Newton Running
Masai Barefoot Technology

Cheaper hacks
Aqua Shoes
Zinetic Pocket Slippers

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Office Worker Luxuries - or Necessities?

Link to CodingHorror Article

The article focuses on chairs, but Jeff Atwood has written other articles whose basic point is that office workers spend the majority of their time interacting with:
  1. Keyboard
  2. Mouse
  3. Monitor
  4. Chair
Those are the things to invest in, for a high-quality work environment.

I'm currently using (or in favor of):
  1. Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard
  2. Microsoft Natural Laser Mouse 6000 (work), Logitech MX510 (home)
  3. Dual monitors, at least 19"
  4. To be determined
Update: I recently changed from a Logitech MX500 at work to a Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000, in order to assess whether the angled wrist approach feels any better. This is also my first wireless mouse, so I'll have to balance whether the lack of cord outweighs the knowledge that I'm placing my hand on a wireless transmitter for multiple hours a day.

One option for #4 is the Ergohuman High-Back Mesh Chair which is around $520 at the time of posting. However, some reviewers have said that the unpadded front puts a lot of pressure on the legs, particularly when leaning forward. Perhaps the Herman Miller Mirra ($599 or $799) is actually a better choice?

Refurbished Office Chairs at ($75 shipping)

A related article comes from Joel Spolsky

The ergonomics experts always want you to have your feet flat on the floor. So you have to adjust your seat height first. Then, your arms are supposed to be horizontal while you're typing. This means you need an adjustable-height keyboard.

Most of the adjustable height keyboard trays are extremely annoying... they're floppy, flimsy, and limit the keyboard to one location. Therefore we decided to get desks where the entire worksurface can be raised and lowered.

Finally, a lot people praise the benefits of standing up for a part of the day, even if you spend the whole day at a computer, so we wanted desks where the worksurface could rise all the way to "counter height" so you could stand and work. And if you are going to be standing up and sitting down it's best to have a desk with a pushbutton, electric motor so you don't get lazy about doing it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Warren Buffett's 7 Secrets for Living a Happy and Simple Life

Link to Article

Each secret is followed by a quote from Warren Buffett.

1. Happiness comes from within.
In my adult business life I have never had to make a choice of trading between professional and personal. I tap-dance to work, and when I get there it’s tremendous fun.

2. Find happiness in simple pleasures.
I have simple pleasures. I play bridge online for 12 hours a week. Bill and I play, he’s “chalengr” and I’m “tbone”.

3. Live a simple life.
I just naturally want to do things that make sense. In my personal life too, I don’t care what other rich people are doing. I don’t want a 405 foot boat just because someone else has a 400 foot boat.

4. Think Simply.
“I want to be able to explain my mistakes. This means I do only the things I completely understand.”

5. Invest Simply.
The best way to own common stocks is through an index fund.

6. Have a mentor in life.
I was lucky to have the right heroes. Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you how you’ll turn out to be. The qualities of the one you admire are the traits that you, with a little practice, can make your own, and that, if practiced, will become habit-forming.

7. Making money isn’t the backbone of our guiding purpose; making money is the by-product of our guiding purpose.
If you’re doing something you love, you’re more likely to put your all into it, and that generally equates to making money.