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Great Article on US Housing Crash

It's Still A Terrible Time To Buy

The best summary explanation, from Business Week: "Today's housing prices are predicated on an impossible combination: the strong growth in income and asset values of a strong economy, plus the ultra-low interest rates of a weak economy. Either the economy's long-term prospects will get worse or rates will rise. In either scenario, housing will weaken."

Taxi Driver with a PhD

Straits Times has also reported on the blog of the Taxi Driver with a PhD in Singapore.

It is apparent from the number of comments in the newspaper article and the blog that the netizens of Singapore are up in arms with this - horrors, a PhD holder driving a taxi cab. I suppose the Asian mentality is still influenced by the axiom that getting a good education means a good life. Well, and the warped notion that a good life is a high paying job.

In any case, this story has personally touched me and I read through the blog in one sitting (and my wife is dumbfounded at my fascination at this issue). I suppose it was a stark reminder of how things could turn out for me and my family - will I get retrenched in my 50s, be laden with debt and no job prospects, and be resigned to driving a taxi cab? (Sidenote: I have secured various verbal agreements with people to live in their balcony if things get bad)

In other news, I received this email:

I am writing to confirm that we have corrected your name on our records. Please reply with any corrections.

Here is how we now have your first name: Yew Jin
Your last name: Lim
Since you have completed your PHD, we have changed your title to Dr.

Communications to you should now be addressed: Dr. Yew Jin Lim

One question:
When addressing your mail using only your initials, should we include the initial of the second part of your first name, ie. Dr. Y.J. Lim?
Or, should we use the first initial only ie. Dr. Y. Lim?

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

In response, I have fulfilled my end of the bet (see the landing page of yewjin.com for details)

Grrrrr. Ok, which one of you emailed the University? :)

Randomize lines in bash

while read line; do echo "$RANDOM $line"; done < $1 | sort | sed -r "s/^[0-9]+ //" > $2


... sigh... or just
shuf $1 > $2

A short note about growing old

As you grow older, you

1. realize that you are at the age at which you were 12 and exclaimed, when I grow up, I will XXX. Well you haven't done XXX yet.

2. realize that you don't recover from being sick as quickly as you used to. That bites.

3. begin to think birthdays aren't all that great.

4. really hate being sick (see point 2). I am sick and I hate it. Now get off my lawn.

5. forget stuff. So when I grow up and reach 40, make sure that I have already read Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters. All of them. And try not to fall asleep while reading them halfway old man. [http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html]

6. think it's really cool that you are old, because you can now say things like, "you young people", and when you do something wrong, you just go, "meh, what do I know? I just a grumpy old man."

7. worry about becoming a grumpy old man.

8. think it's best to not count based on absolute age and we should be counting based on relative age. So from now now, my age is TBD (to be determined), but when I die, I would have been (current_age / age_of_death * 100%) old.

Overheard today

Bad Joke of the Day

Question: How do Microsoft employees greet each other lately?
Answer: How have you bing?

You Don't Need to Know That

Overheard in a cubicle.


B is trying to help debug A's code, and is soliciting some explanation.

B: "What does this chunk of code do?"
A: "You don't need to know that, because I don't understand it myself."
B: "..."

In Challenging Times, the Tide Changes

Geeks are So In

In the early 1960s when he was choosing a career, Professor Chamberlin recalled, technical people were respected and well paid. Money, he said, was part of the equation. “But the bigger part of the motivation for me,” he said, “was that I would be doing exciting and important work and that my contributions would be appreciated.”
--With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King? [nytimes.com]

The universities in Singapore have release information regarding the grade profile of students entering each course of study. [NTU] [NUS] [SMU]

A comparison between common courses at the various universities at the 10th percentile (letter grades are for GCE A-Level grade combinations, and floating point numbers are the polytechnic diploma GPAs):

CourseNTU(H2/H1, GPA)NUSSMU
AccountancyAAB/B, 3.71AAA/B, 3.64ABB/A, 3.60
BusinessAAB/B, 3.63AAB/B, 3.50ABB/B, 3.49
EconomicsABB/B, 3.48BBC/C, 3.39BBB/B, 3.30
Law-AAA/AAAA/B
Information Systems, NTU Comp Eng, Computing (IS)BCC/C, 3.38BCC/B, 3.54BCC/B, 3.16
Social Sciences, Psy, SocioBCC/B, 3.39BBC/C, 3.39BBC/B, 3.28
Reproduced from [Jay Lim's Blog]

Some observations: Computer Science/Engineering has the one of the lowest admission cut-offs, except when considering polytechnic diploma GPA for NUS (at which point, CS actually has a more stringent requirement than even Business).

It is true - we simply do not get the best and the brightest in Computer Science. And while I imagine it would be very difficult for an entrepreneur with solely non-technical background to create the next big thing in software and Internet technology. The faculty in NUS routinely relies on foreign students to prop up the quality of the student base - an illustrative example is a fellow Singaporean in Google who had my PhD supervisor as his supervisor for his project. In the first meeting between the professor and the student, the professor simply assumed the student was not Singapore and asked, "so, which part of China are you from?".

Geeks make money - No?

Do not fill young people's heads with too much nonsense like how they have to look cool. Sell the cool ideas they work with. Teach them to see that you can make money and be rich only if you have something worth selling, and that is where engineers come in.

Years ago, engineering was the top school to go to.

Today, everyone wants to be in business and make money and that is why our young flock to anything and everything to do with business, finance and economics.

-- Straits Times Forum Comment - Focus on engineers' 'cool' ideas, not their image [straitstimes.com]

As my colleague (in Google mind you) likes to quip: "If you are in software engineering for money, you are in the wrong business."

If you are the gahmen, hear my plea

Singapore might want smart and hardworking generalists to be to civil servants by enticing them with extraordinary salaries. But if you want a striving science and technology sector, specialists have to be nurtured. And my last rant: uhm, propping up A*Star scholars like trophy dogs is not the way to go, simply due to the overemphasis of look-at-my-scholars-with-their-high-grades, aren't they adorable sense of it all.
Rejected by Harvard? Not a problem. You're in good company.

The list is, well, impressive. Investor Warren Buffet, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass,
Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, NBC "Today" show host Meredith
Vieira, former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw, New Yorker magazine
editor David Remnick, CNN founder Ted Turner, folk rock legend Art Garfunkel,
Matt Groening, creator of the animated television series "The Simpsons," Sun
Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
president Harold Varmus, and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger
round out the list.

-- Non Ivy League Graduates

My Erdös Number

My Erdös number is 4.

COMPUTING TIGERS AND GOATS
Y. J. Lim, J. Nievergelt - ICGA Journal, 2004

Jürg Nievergelt coauthored with Komei Fukuda MR1708017
Komei Fukuda coauthored with David M. Avis MR1130229
David M. Avis coauthored with Paul Erdös MR0949289 (90b:05068)

A few thoughts here and there

I think that:
1. After seeing the disintegration of Wall Street, I am less inclined to consider pursuing a MBA.

2. After being disabused about how flawed financial modeling and short-term trading can be, I believe that a logical person can read the macro-economic signs and deduce a trend that can result in a successful long-term investment plan. You too can be Warren Buffett.

3. The latest bull run is a technical rally, and we will see a bearish market soon. Perhaps even matching the March lows.

4. In light of the presumed bearish market, I am waiting (and evaluating if it's worthwhile) to contributing more to my Roth IRA before April 15, the last day to contribute for tax year 2008.

5. A 529 plan seems like a good plan, except that we might not be staying in US until DJ enters university.

one arm blogging

Baby is sick. Wife is sick. I am sick. Maybe i should switch to twitter.

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