Entries for April, 2007

My front and rear derailleurs on my '99 Kaitai had been acting up the last week (I've started biking to work), so I dropped it off at the San Diego Bike Shop which is two blocks from my place. I dropped it off for a tune-up this morning ($39) and just got it back. WOW. It's like a completely different bike!

They did all the typical tune-up things (air pressure in tires, adjusted the derailleurs, tightened the brakes), but what really impressed me is that they actually cleaned the bike. IIt looks like a new friggin' bike. Amazing! The tires, the frame, the derailleurs ... everything. They really did go beyond the call of duty there :)

Anyways, if anybody out there is searching to find out about San Diego Bike Shop, I highly recommend them. I'm almost so excited I may take a ride around the bay right now!

Posted by roy on March 31, 2007 at 05:42 PM in Ramblings | 10 Comments

Gas prices are at $3.36 for unleaded here in San Diego! I was pretty surprised - I had no idea gas prices were on the rise again. It should really be no surprise though, given all the talk around Iran.

I've always been curious about the real MPG on my Mazda3, as well as the actual expense of owning a car for me in San Diego (gas + insurance + parking). Of course, I enjoy the warm feeling of smugness when I find out I haven't filled up my tank in three weeks (good thing I don't have a Prius, or my smugness might be too much to handle!), but it'll feel even BETTER when I can put a dollar and cents figure on it.

Starting today, I've started recording my actual gas usage on my car. This will hopefully give me an idea of how often I'm driving the car, as well as the actual MPG usage on my Mazda3. I know (based on informal "in my head" math) that at the end of its lifecycle, the mighty Taurus was averaging 14mpg ... hopefully my Mazda3 can get around 28mpg (I think by manufacturer's specs, it can do that).

You may now officially enjoy that smugness of knowing you're not a total dweeb like me!

Posted by roy on April 1, 2007 at 03:17 PM in San Diego | 5 Comments

You can never remove functional complexity in a software stack; you can only pass it to the next item in the stack.

Currently feeling: discouraged
Posted by roy on April 2, 2007 at 03:18 PM in Web Development | 3 Comments

The smartest thing I've read all day (by 'smartest' I mean, of course, agreeing with me):

Do you people have any clue what the concept of "noon" is supposed to be? In case you've forgotten, it's supposed to be the time of day when the sun is highest in the sky. It's supposed to be the time when there is as much daylight behind us as is in front of us.

For practical purposes, this isn't exact, but we've done a pretty good job with splitting the world up into 24 time zones so that it's somewhat close.

But not any more! No, now noon is just some arbitrary point during the day when we find it convenient to be. We want more time at the end of the day, so let's just move noon an hour ahead, right?

WRONG! I have a better idea. Instead of dinking around with clocks and redefining what something means that has been around since the beginning of recorded time, why don't we just have businesses shift their hours around?

Imagine how nice this would be. We never change our clocks. Twice a year, government changes its hours. The Post Office, for example, doesn't open at 8:00am during the summer, it opens at 7:00am, and it closes an hour earlier, too. Businesses that choose to do so follow suit and make sure its employees know when to show up. I suspect that almost all of them would, and probably most companies would have a policy that says something like, "When the government shifts its hours, we're shifting ours also."

Everyone's happy. People get their extra hour at the end of the day. No one has to write stupid software patches to account for when DST is. Atlanta, Georgia is always GMT-5, never GMT-4 like it is now. People don't think Arizonans are weird because half the year they're on Mountain time and half the year they're on Pacific. If government wants to change its hours a few weeks earlier next year, there's no issue at all, they can just announce it a few months in advance, and when the time comes, do it.

I'm sorry, but people who think that DST is a good thing are idiots. If you want to change your schedule, change your schedule. But leave my freakin' clock alone.
Posted by roy on April 3, 2007 at 05:20 PM in Ramblings | 4 Comments

Dunno why this cracks me up, but it does.

Posted by roy on April 4, 2007 at 10:43 AM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

"can't you see it's over ... you're the god of a shrinking universe?"

been listening to a ton of muse lately - what an awesome band.

Posted by roy on April 4, 2007 at 11:33 PM in Music | 5 Comments

Uncle Sam just hooked me up with my tax refund. Woo WOO. Time to blow it all on hookers, coke, and booze to fuel the ultimate programming binge... ever

Posted by roy on April 6, 2007 at 12:16 AM in Finances | 2 Comments

Man, I love the Muppets. I've been watching some clips on YouTube ... think I might splurge and get the DVD set for Season 1 which came out a little while ago ...

Here is an awesome sketch of my three favorite Muppets (Animal, Swedish Chef, and Beaker) singing Danny Boy:

I could not stop laughing ... how awesome.

And the classic, mahnah mahnah:

Posted by roy on April 7, 2007 at 04:53 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

Today I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond trying to find kitchen magnets (cause I want to post up the local Chinese takeout menu up there; I'm getting tired of leaving it on my breakfast table).

Not only did I fail in locating the kitchen magnets in Bed, Bath, and Beyond ... but I ended up spending $80 on other things I didn't really need, but sounded like a good idea at the time.

And you wonder why I suck so bad ...

Posted by roy on April 8, 2007 at 10:09 PM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

Two interesting links: There's no such thing as a 'perfect' temperature and a video: The Great Global Warming Swindle.

I'm going to be cheap and say here that this is not an endorsement against global warming. My feelings about global warming are a bit muddied...

If there's one thing I learned from my chemistry degree (as well as my economics degree), it's that science isn't as rigidly cemented as fact as I thought. Science is not absolute. There have been countless times when the prevailing scientific theory has been overthrown with some new discovery (the Bohr model for an atom as an example). On a very simple level, you can understand anything in science by simplifying its concepts and making assumptions - this is how chemistry (an incredibly complex field) is taught to college students. So, when I hear an argument starting with "Science shows..." I roll my eyes.

Economics taught me that general trends and statistics don't really mean much - you can modify any set of data to show the trend you want. Macroeconomics, in general, is a huge field where smart people try to boil down the trends of an economy into something simple so we can "benefit" from that knowledge. Look at any argument regarding supply-side economics to get understand this. The basic premise of this argument: "Cutting taxes for corporations [supply side] will actually make the economy more productive, thus providing the government with more tax revenue!" (This was a gross bastardization of what supply-side economics really is; read the wikipedia entry on supply side economics if you're really interested in it)

Whether you believe this or not, you can find loads of articles on both sides (this was Reagonomics). Of course, inherent in these arguments is the equivalent of nerds comparing the size of their manhoods: the "academic credentials." Inevitably, any scientific (or pseudo-scientific as is the case for fields like economics) theory will boil down to the credentials of the presenter... blah

My point (and I'm getting off-track here quickly) is that when I see arguments about global warming, I always see numbers of "accredited scientific organizations" support this or that position.

When I get down to trying to find scientific articles with raw data, they're always littered with huge caveats: We can only estimate temperatures for older data points. Huh? How can that be data?

Personally, I think any discussion about global warming is so pointless. Nobody has any concrete data and it always boils down into some sort of contest to prove one's intellectual superiority.

Basically, I don't worry about global warming. If it happens, it happens. That doesn't mean, however, that we should go around pissing on the environment - I think we can all strive, individually, to lower our energy on earth.

Recycle, turn off lights when you're not using them, and don't drive gas guzzlers.

And if you're wondering, my feelings on global poverty run roughly along the same lines. Throwing money and food at poverty are only futile stopgap measures.

Posted by roy on April 8, 2007 at 10:36 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments

Guys want to play God. This manifests itself in some guys as what girls perceive as an obsession: be it with Star Wars knowledge, a card collection, an obsession with work, or more broadly, any time-consuming activity regarding a skill.

Given the lack of any superhuman abilities that would let us actually *be* Gods, we look for completeness or perfection as a satisfactory compromise. How often have you heard, "I just need ___ to complete me/this collection?"

I've wondered why I've completely lost the will to date. It's easy to always dismiss that because of my work schedule, but I don't think that's the case. You can always make time - if you say you can't, you're simply hiding the truth from yourself.

I remember back at Carolina when we were talking about the chillest professor - I heard all these stories that the guy was a firehead in his younger days as professors.

I wonder if guys chill out as they grow older because they lose the will to prove themselves. I remember when I was younger (and started neopages.com as a competitor to citysearch.com) back in high school, I was incredibly motivated, driven, and I wasn't afraid to show it. I was the most competitive in elementary and middle school - when I was trying to prove to my peers that I was the smartest kid in the class (which is why I don't really hold a grudge against the bullies, since I deserved some humility). I still find myself in this mental state quite often - I want to change the world. I, alone. Me, myself, and I.

I know, in the back of my mind, that changing anything in this world requires so much work, power, luck, and connections. It's nearly futile. The internet, if anything, has taught me how transient "success" is - remember how successful Geocities, Friendster, and StileProject were? Where are they now?

I wonder as I grow older, if I'll accept this futility and accept my mediocrity. If I accept my mediocrity, I'll stop giving my life in pursuit of some higher level of "success." I'll stop trying to change the world.

If I accept mediocrity, that would sure free up a lot of time to pursue relationships. My one relationship was with an incredibly independent girl, who didn't demand much from me - but still it failed because I took it for granted. I took it for granted to focus on my own personal success.

I always wondered why some obviously talented guys go down the path of medicine and law. I mean this, in no way, a diss to people who go to these schools ... but realistically, how many doctors make a huge impact in the world around them? My friend, a budding doctor at Duke, tells me that most of the cases he sees are for drug-seeking addicts or fat people with heart problems. It's not as noble of a profession as I once believed. So why do smart, driven, talented guys seem to flock to these professions?

A doctor probably provides the easiest route to fulfilling this need to play God - you have another person's life(style) in your hands. What you say becomes the absolute truth to them ...

I guess the conclusion to this rant (if there is one to be made) is that guys who still feel the need to "prove" themselves are a dangerous bunch (and I'm still firmly in this group). We're probably the most destructive and the least likely to have successful relationships.

How sad is that?

Posted by roy on April 9, 2007 at 02:37 PM in Personal | 24 Comments

I'm going to do what Stewie calls a "compliment" sandwich, except with silliness. I'm going to start off the post silly, write something drivel which I will attempt to pass off as serious, and end with something silly. Hopefully you will read nothing in the middle and will only guffaw at my ridiculousness.

First, the silly:

This picture, from a meeting last week we had at MT with me in the far right:

Picture quality SUCKS (obviously Aaron had on the "blur out the supercool people" filter on his camera), but guess what t-shirt I'm wearing ...

Yes, that's right ...


*snap* *snap*
*snap* *snap*
My lame-o attempt at doing the sassy snapping fingers thing, if you get it, you get it.

Think this shirt is awesome? yeah, buy it here

. . .

Hot on the heels of my last post, I figured I'd write a post about my personal feelings about happiness and success.

These are broad terms that have such varied meanings to certain people, I'm not going to even try to generalize (like I normally do) for the masses and I'm going to write this simply from my own perspective. This will sound self-centered and most likely arrogant, but this is *my* journal and I write what I want! (jeez, how lame is *that* excuse).

True happiness, to me, is a state of mind where I'm satisfied with the status quo. It is not triggered by other people, but by my own accomplishments. A consequence of being happy is laziness. I'm happy with the status quo, so why change it? I find when I'm happy, I'm least likely to accept change in my life.

That's not to say that misery is great either - to me, misery is the hopeless that is associated with an unchangeable situation. I avoid situations which can cause me misery like the plague. This is partially why I write such long-winded posts which are basically excuses for not being in a relationship - when I'm in a relationship, I cannot control how the other person feels about me. I'm afraid of getting burned (as I have in the past, as my success rate in getting girls to return an interest in me is unsurprisingly low). I am almost never miserable (I cannot remember a time in the past year when I've been miserable).

My belief in fatalism and God (fatalism resulting from God's power) allows me to "roll with the punches" and accept life's crappy little turd sandwiches without spiraling into a state of hopelessness. You've probably read this phrase so many times, but when I finally accepted the wisdom of this passage, I became far less miserable with my life: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." It's not really a surprise to me it's adopted as the AA's Serenity Prayer.

Another state I used to find myself in is self-loathing. I used to hate how I would be wasting my life away. This happened mostly during my early years of college, when I (stupidly) assumed that I should be a chemist cause that's what my dad did. I hated chemistry with a passion. When I finally found my passion (writing software), the self-loathing ended. I've had bouts of self-loathing recently with my on/off-again addiction to poker, my tendency to engage in binge drinking, and the days when I'm unproductive with my projects/work ... but I work very hard to avoid those days.

Can I truly be happy? Mostly I have moments of inflated self-importance, and that usually suffices to take me week-by-week. I think the closest moments to true happiness is when I've accomplished a big project - when I release a project, when MindTouch ships software ... etc. But sometimes I wonder if I'm confusing feelings of elation ("thank god that's over") with true happiness ...

Fortunately, I have tons of things that bring a smile to my face (friends, family, Muppets, songs, movies), which are enough to keep me from being the most depressing person in the world.

How does success factor into this?

Success is the world's perception of how close you were to accomplishing the goals you set forth (and this is, according to wikipedia, pretty close to the dictionary definition). It has no bearing, at all, on your personal level of happiness. I have no illusions that any type of monetary or professional success will bring any types of happiness into my life - it won't.

The thing that success does is it frees you to pursue whatever you want. Want to design mansions for a living? Go for it. Want to fly airplanes? Done. Want to fulfill some deep-seated need to be charitable and change the world? It's possible.

Success is a means to an end - the end being personal liberty. Ever step I've taken in my life, I've taken to make sure I have all future options open - flexibility is the #1 characteristic I try to maintain). Quite honestly, I'm surprised I've stuck with a 9-5 job this far - the reason I love working at MT is the level of freedom I'm afforded. It's a startup, so I know that they're short-staffed, so I can't go around pursuing every little trinket that catches my interest (I try to do that in my spare time). But at the same time, they know that stifling me is just not productive. It's a fine line I think we balance well, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work there.

This overriding emphasis on flexibility does come with some downsides. I have a horrible time keeping in touch with friends, or making/keeping appointments more than a few weeks in advance (those things are probably a bit related). It also means I'm a commitment-phobe (even more so than a normal guy!) and all the baggage that's associated with that.

My projects have a different goal (in my eyes, they're already a success, but could be so much more) than the success of MindTouch, obviously. My personal dream is that MindTouch is able to foster and maintain an open-source community that is able to maintain the DekiWiki project, and that my personal projects reach a level of adoption among users that use my tools to connect with other people. For Tabulas, I've already reached that level - just look at the homepage to find a Tabulas that has people interacting with one another. The next step as a concrete step, is to bring in more people who won't see blogging as such a gimmick (and to stop being scared of privacy!) and to write some more worthwhile content.

. . .

. . .

. . .

Of course, this being all said, I will also accept the ultimate token of success: a Wikipedia page, forged from the fires of debate on notability with a long section on "Personal life" which will list the following women as former flames:

(In true HTML fashion, I am using the unordered-list HTML list tag (<ul>), because even I do not possess the omniscience to determine the order of these relationships, which will happen, shutupthankyouverymuchlolrotflmaoOMGbbq)

  • Jessica Alba
  • Jenna Fischer (I know she's married, shut up)
  • Jaymee Ong
  • Jessica Biel (what's up with the J names?)
  • Meg or Dia from Meg & Dia (they're both hot in their individual ways)
  • Kristin Bell

Yes, indeedy, I'll settle for this...

Oh jeez, it looks like the sarcasm dripped all over my pants. DARN, I just these washed! Please excuse me while I try to use these Shout Wipes Plus (God's greatest gift, besides Swiffer) to get these sappy sarcasm stains (LOVE THAT ALLITERATION, BABY) out from these new khaki pants!

Posted by roy on April 10, 2007 at 12:55 AM in Personal | 2 Comments

I finally opened up my Scottrade account. Wow, the registration process blows chunks. They give you your account number once during the registration process ... no emails, nothing. So when the Scotttrade verification deposits hit my bank, I had no way of finding out what my account # was ... and of course, there's absolutely no way to retrieve your account credentials if you don't know them.

Look at the site! There's no "Forgot your password?" or "Forgot your account #?" link! I had to call them up to get it - man they sounded annoyed.

Anyways, I put in my first deposit over there and I'll be happy to start trading from there. As I close out my Fidelity positions, I'll shift more money over to the Scottrade account.

An interesting note from Prosper so far ... I started mid-November and looking at my total returns, it's roughly a 5-6% gain for the five months thus far (not bad). Note that this is with incremental deposits so the actual return per dollar per annum is actually a little higher, but I'm far too lazy to do the real math there. I just did a total returns since Nov. / total deposits since November and got 5.2%. It sure beats the hell out of CDs and T-bills as fixed-return assets (with a lot higher risker, obv).

Posted by roy on April 10, 2007 at 04:42 PM in Finances | 7 Comments

Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson are both staying next year. Awesome. No word from Brandan, but he's as good as gone. I just didn't get the sense he was that excited about our team or playing college hoops ...

Durant's gone, so as Afflalo . I'm not surprised about Afflalo - he's gonna be a stud in the NBA.

Posted by roy on April 11, 2007 at 12:40 AM in Sports | 3 Comments

"Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and for Atheists and Agnostics." How unsurprising.

Some related studies I'd like to see:

  • The rate of marriage for other denominational groups compared to Christian groups & the reasons for marriage
  • The average age of marriage for Christian couples vs other groups
  • A comparison of percentages of Christian vs. Atheistic couples that engage in premarital sex

A quote of a quote from the study:

"While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages."
Posted by roy on April 11, 2007 at 04:35 PM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

Bert posted something, so I'll post something about Imus.

The quote in question:

McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kinda like -- I don't know.

It seems the "nappy-headed" is the offensive adjective in question, otherwise McGuirk would be on the chopping block with Imus. Wow. <sarcasm>Glad to see misogyny still takes a back seat to racism, still!</sarcasm>

Hate speech should be protected from government censorship and punishment. Obviously, Imus was employed by a corporation, so that's not a relevant point here.

What really bugs me is this:

He issued repeated apologies as protests intensified. But it wasn't enough as everyone from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey joined the criticism.

What the heck? Imus, as far as I've read, has been very apologetic about this whole incident, so why does everybody insist on continuing to demand an apology? Imus has apologized personally to the Rutgers team, which took the brunt of the barb.

Obviously there's no excuse for saying a comment like that, but this situation has just snowballed out of control - I don't think Imus deserves the level of punishment he's been taking from everybody and their momma.

Imus is an old guy. I mean, heck, even my parents, who are pretty young, are slightly racist. They don't harbor any ill will towards anybody ... they were just raised differently. When I met Europeans (Germans especially) in high school, the way they talked about other races would seem incredibly offensive to us, but it was pretty normal to them. Am I making excuses for them? Potentially.

Imus was a shock jock. For a long time. He's straddled that line between offensive and crudely humorous often. He crossed the line here, according to public opinion. But is that deserving of all this judgment being passed on him?

Have you never said something that you immediately regretted? Ever told a joke that you knew immediately afterwards was wrong?

Quit passing judgment on Imus. And for every person I read in the press who continues to trash Imus or demand an apology from him ... glad to see you've done nothing in your life that's worth passing judgment on.

Posted by roy on April 13, 2007 at 03:15 PM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

At least 29 people are dead in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech... damn. My thoughts are with the students and families of the Va. Tech family.

Posted by roy on April 16, 2007 at 11:01 AM in Ramblings | Add a comment

Cho Seung-Hui (the Va.Tech shooter) was one disturbed kid. Check out the plays he wrote...

Currently feeling: sad
Posted by roy on April 17, 2007 at 02:19 PM in Ramblings | 1 Comments

I read the funniest thing today:

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has a simple solution to future shooting massacres such as the one that ripped apart Virginia Tech university Monday: more guns.

"People are a little more cautious if somebody might have a gun there," the GOP presidential candidate told Politico reporters Tuesday. "A concealed gun carried by a responsible person -- that might have ended the problem that they had at Virginia Tech with one person being killed or two people being killed."

Hmm, let's think for a moment. Let's say somebody is on the loose with a gun, killing people. Let's say I'm sitting in class with a concealed weapon. Suddenly, somebody comes through the door with a weapon.

Is it the assailant? Is it somebody else with a concealed weapon who's trying to warn my room? Do I shoot this guy? Do I not shoot this guy?

This is the most retarded thing I've read all day, and I spent most of today reading my own code (which is probably the most retarded stuff EVER).

Posted by roy on April 17, 2007 at 08:26 PM in Ramblings | 5 Comments

Funny anecdote of the day (as funny as they'll come without being too geeky):

I'm sitting here, working on resolving a bug with our software. The office manager comes up with a sly smile on her face.

"A personal question", she says. "What do you weigh? We've been arguing about it for a while."

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. JEEZ. I KNOW I'M LETTING MYSELF GO, BUT REALLY, DO WE HAVE TO MAKE IT SO OBVIOUS????

Giggles (from my co-workers, as I have a manly guffaw) fill the room, and I am embarassed, once again!

Posted by roy on April 18, 2007 at 11:22 AM in Ramblings | 7 Comments

I know all you stalkers want to know what I've been up to, so here it is:

wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki sleep wiki wiki swarmf wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki burritos wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki beer wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki burritos wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki sleep wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki tabulas wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki burritos wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki sleep wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki burritos wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki wiki

Somebody save me from this wiki wiki world.

Posted by roy on April 19, 2007 at 03:17 PM in MindTouch | 3 Comments
Posted by roy on April 20, 2007 at 02:53 PM in Ramblings | 2 Comments

Ooh boy, check out this sentence construct from this article:

The family of Doe, who committed suicide, slipped back from the spotlight a day after issuing a powerful statement apologizing for his actions.

A suicidal family slipped back from the spotlight! Wow! Do they have a choice if they're dead???

Posted by roy on April 21, 2007 at 01:08 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Prosper lately, so I'll post a few of my thoughts.

Prosper, for those of you who haven't followed my previous posts on it, is a person-to-person lending site. Basically people who need money ("borrowers") post requests for loans. People who have money ("lenders") come in an bid an amount of money at an interest rate (per annum). The minimum bid rate is $50, and you can bid any amount above that.

After a few days, the loan listing closes, and the lowest interest rates "win" the bid. The borrower gets the money, and Prosper then handles the payment from the borrowers to the lenders every month. It's really a great way for people to empower one another using micropayments.

So now, the downsides to Prosper:

Putting your money to work takes forever

I wrote about this before, but it takes FOREVER to actually put your money to work. Assuming you've set up a lender account and verified your bank information, it can take up to 5 business days for a deposit to get into Prosper. After that, it may take anywhere to 1-9 business days to get your money in on listings that end (I normally go for loans that close 2-3 days after my deposit gets in, so let's put it at an even 8 business days. After the listing ends, Prosper then verifies the borrower's information (a final scam check, I'm guessing), then creates the loan. I've seen this take anywhere from 2-5 business days.

Basically, for 3 weeks, your money will not be doing any work for you. Once your loan opens, it's a matter of constantly checking back monthly to put your money back to work - the interest/principal payments you receive do not make any interest from Prosper. This is unlike your PayPal "balance," which earns a 5% interest rate.

Deceptive numbers

If you browse the site, you'll run into tons of listings from borrowers classified HR (high risk) loans. These HR loans, obviously, also carry the highest interest rates (potentially up to 29%). Too many new lenders to the site get dollar signs in their eyes and pursue these high risk loans without considering the downside. Prosper clearly states the Experian credit data, which tells you the default rate of these risk types ... but what most people fail to grasp is that Prosper borrowers are higher risk than the Experian values. There are a lot of HR people on Prosper who have been denied by "traditional" loan/credit companies because of the risk of bankruptcy.

How do you gauge success?

All loans on Prosper are fixed at 3-years. This makes understanding the culture and the mathematics behind "successful" loans very difficult. As I stated before, Experian numbers aren't very useful for Prosper, because the borrowers on Prosper are a higher risk group. There have been some great discussions on the Prosper forums about the numbers. One of the posters, pninen posted some interesting graphs:

The first graph shows the number of loans that go late for at least a month. By halfway through the average Prosper life loan, you have 6-12% of your portfolio as possible writeoffs. The second graph shows how each credit risk fares over time - the HRs seem to fail about 1/3 of the time, and this isn't even the whole lifetime of the loan.

One of the coolest things about Prosper is how open they are with their data - a site that uses Prosper's data is called lendingstats.com, which will show you all sorts of information about lenders, including their lending amounts, their performance, their listings, etc. Such transparency is really useful when looking back on loans that went bad.

For example, check out this guy's stats - he loaned upwards of $160K, weighted heavily towards the high risks, and now he's looking at breaking even (if he's lucky). And he's only 1/9 through his loan's lifetimes. Ouch.

Can we find success?

Right now, it seems highly doubtful. My portfolio of loans has been unusually successful - I'm attributing this to luck, and the fact that my loans aren't very mature.

There's a lot of strategies out there for potentially succeeding on Prosper; what's great is with sites like LendingStats, we can see how well these lenders succeed. Some strategies I've thought about potentially succeeding on Prosper:

  • Payday loans - The math behind this is pretty self-evident; replace an interest rate in the hundreds to something in the teens will make this a net-benefit for the borrower. The trick is finding people who can still make ends meet if the payday loan is converted
  • Credit card consolidation - There are tons of people who juggle huge amounts of credit debt on credit cards effectively. There's a fine line between people who are drowning in debt versus those who are managing it effectively. These people seem to accept paying interest as a way of life; this makes me think that these people are probably the most reliably to lend to, give the risk v. reward (most of these people are in the C-D ranges, which gives an interest rate in the high teens or in the lower twenties)
  • A++, A, or B loans - I used to think just loaning to A would be able to lock in a ~8% return (Bert seems to be employing that strategy). The problem is that most of these guys could go get a really cheap loan from the bank, so we have to ask ourselves: Why are they getting a loan at a higher rate with such good credit? The answer: The banks probably denied them, for good reason. I've added a few A and Bs to my loan portfolio, but I'm not sure if this is a winning strategy for Prosper.

I'm really enjoying Prosper though; it's been a great experience thus far, looking at how people budget their money and what people need money for. I never understood why credit card companies charged such high rates ... and I'm beginning to understand why. There are so many people who are irresponsible with money ... I have a newfound respect for banks :)

Posted by roy on April 21, 2007 at 04:27 PM in | 5 Comments

I spent the weekend touching up some things on listfoo and decided to just package up the ZIP and release it as open source.

You can read more about the project and download the bits and run your own crappy list services now! Yay ponies!

I spent a good 5 seconds mulling over the licensing options (GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT), and I decided to go with the best candidate: WTFPL - Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License.

I feel pretty confident with my choice. I really like the simplicity of the license:

Version 2, December 2004

Copyright (C) 2004 Sam Hocevar
14 rue de Plaisance, 75014 Paris, France
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim or modified
copies of this license document, and changing it is allowed as long
as the name is changed.



This marks my first contribution to the OSS community (outside of MT, obviously). I hope to release swarmf.com under the same license, assuming I ever find the time to work on it.

Posted by roy on April 22, 2007 at 07:44 PM in Projects, Web Development | 1 Comments

Last night in my dreams, I heard the most beautiful songs. I woke up sorely disappointed since I couldn't continue listening to them.

Posted by roy on April 23, 2007 at 10:19 AM in Dreams | 1 Comments

Brandan Wright's going pro. Not a big surprise.

We recently lost a big-time prospect for next year, Delvon Roe. Let's hope we can get land some good players for '08 too...

Posted by roy on April 23, 2007 at 02:30 PM in Sports | 1 Comments

An Earth-like potentially habitable planet orbiting a red sun was found on the same day that kryptonite was discovered in a Siberian mine.

. . .

On the walk back from dinner, I heard Sugar Ray's "Fly." Wow, how long has it been since that song came out? Major nostalgia trip!

Posted by roy on April 24, 2007 at 07:37 PM in Ramblings | Add a comment

"But strong tax revenues point to the likelihood of a shrinking budget deficit, he said." - haha, yeah right. The government is like a little kid - it's gonna take as much as you can give it. The increased tax revenue is probably gonna fund a few more bridges in Alaska for Ted Stevens. Even better, maybe we can start another war!!! Maybe with Iran!!! That would be <sarcasm>AWESOME</sarcasm>

Posted by roy on April 26, 2007 at 11:44 AM in Ramblings | Add a comment

I drive out to In-N-Out every weekend (the one time I actually use my car) to enjoy a nice hamburger lunch. It's usually the highlight of the day (sad, but I don't care), so I really look forward to it.

The In-N-Out I go to is usually packed with people, so finding a seat can be difficult. I was relegated to finding a seat outside (which is fine, since San Diego's weather is g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s). I had just sat down and taken the first bite of my awesome burger when these three high school kids approached me.

"Is it cool if we sit down and eat here?"

I didn't really think before I responded in the affirmative.


Sitting there, trying to ignore them and enjoy my meal at the small circular table reminded me of all the bad memories from high school. It was the most inane chatter ever.

The two topics of discussion during the 5-minute span (I ate quickly and left, cause I didn't want to melt my brain):

  • One of the guys had called one of the girls and woken her up for lunch (this was repeated three times)
  • The spelling of ocean is *not* o-c-i-a-n

I didn't even get to enjoy my meal ... sigh....

Posted by roy on April 29, 2007 at 07:06 PM in Ramblings | 3 Comments
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