Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Picked up a piece of American Greetings (AM) at 21.97. The company has a number of domestic greeting card brands (Papyrus, Carlton Cards, ...) as well as a few internet-based brands (BlueMountain, Egreetings, ...). What got me interested was the 2.5% dividend yield and what looks to be reasonably good value on an earnings basis. The company announces its quarterly earnings tomorrow, and I figured I'd pick some up ahead of it. Adding this to the long-term portfolio... it's not intended to be a pure trade.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quick Update

Purely a trade following yesterday's sell-off... grabbed a block of Form Factor (FORM) at 8.90. Will exit on any significant pop. The company is sitting on a lot of cash without debt, so despite its problems, I am willing to sit on it for a little bit. Time will tell if this is a boneheaded trade or not.

Friday, December 10, 2010

All Swell That End Swell

Earlier this week, I had an excellent dinner at Swell in San Francisco. It's a really small place, but it had nice ambience, and more importantly, I thought the food was really good. I don't think we would have found this place on our own... we ended up there as Open Table had spotlighted the restaurant. For $25, we obtained a $50 credit, which definitely made the meal seem really inexpensive.

The food was great in my opinion. I'm too lazy to write more about it, but everything we had was really good. I have to say that I wasn't particularly fond of the ginger flavored crème brulée, though I thought the miso flavored and espresso flavored versions were quite good. Anyway, it's a seafood restaurant, and I believe it is worth checking out. It is unlikely to disappoint in my opinion.

Here are some pics from our meal... about half the menu was raw and the other half was cooked. We basically followed that ratio, and ordered two raw dishes and two cooked dishes. This was followed up with a set of three differently flavored crème brulée servings.

Scallops Roulade

Fort Bragg Sea Urchin

Risotto with Prawns

Seafood Vol-Au-Vent
Ginger, Miso, and Espresso Flavored Crème Brulée

Monday, November 29, 2010

When a cup isn't a cup...

Here's a piece of trivia that I found interesting, and frankly, a bit strange.

You likely have seen that many food packaging labels in the U.S. describe serving sizes in units of cups. You're also likely to have come across cup unit measurements in various cooking/baking recipes.

However, what you're not likely to know is that these sizes are not the same. A cup used for nutrition labeling is dictated by U.S. laws to be 240mL, or roughly 8.115 customary fluid ounces. This is a little more than 1.44% more volume than the standard cup used in all your favorite recipes.

And, I thought I'd throw this out at you all as well... a Japanese cup is defined to be only 200 mL. I'd be interested to know if Japanese cookbooks refer to this smaller volume cup, the traditional one, or some other definition altogether.

Isn't it about time that we just standardize the definition? Seems silly to me the way things are today (not that I've ever noticed the distinctions).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Norwegian Deer

I once hit a deer
Or should I say, she once hit me
She showed me her fur
Isn't it clear, Norwegian deer

A deer jumped out in front of my car while I was on the way home late one night a few weeks ago. That wasn't the problem, as I was a fairly good stopping distance away from it. The problem, as it turns out, is that deer come in twos, threes, and more. As I slammed on the brakes, two more deer jumped out in front, and a third jumped into the side of my car.

I think I hit it just as much as it hit me. Let me just say that I was freaked out, and I felt really bad thinking I had just killed a deer. But, all the deer just ran off like nothing happened. I guess they're a lot more robust than I had thought. It wasn't like I was going fast, but then again, it hit my car hard enough to dent it a little bit and leave me some of its fur.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Neat Little Problem

I found this problem to be both interesting and sort of cute. So, I'm sharing here. There are at least two solutions that I know of (ignoring isomorphisms). I didn't find it too difficult, but who knows what everyone else thinks of it.

You have 10 visually indistinguishable balls lined up in front of you. Let's mark then ball #1 through #10. Two adjacent balls have been deemed special. Your job is to determine which balls are the special ones.

You are given a single consultation with an oracle to help you out. The oracle accepts a specific type of query, which is of the form: How many of the balls in this list { ... } are special? You are allowed to submit two questions at once, and you will receive two answers at once.

For example, if the special balls are #1 and #2, a valid consultation with the oracle would be:

1) How many of the balls in {#1, #2, #3, #9} are special?
2) How many of the balls in {#1, #5, #6} are special?

The oracle's response in this case will be Question #1 = 2, Question #2 = 1.

Notice that you are not allowed to formulate Question #2 based on the response of Question #1. Both questions must be submitted simultaneously.


Monday, November 01, 2010

A Birthday Idea and a Request for Participation

Last Thursday, I attended a workshop at the Stanford Institute of Design (d.school). It was really quite interesting and I felt that I learned a few things about how to better think. We were broken up into teams and worked on how we could improve the gift giving experience.

Anyway, one idea that came out of our team discussions seemed interesting enough to perhaps try. So, here I am calling out to my friends to see if they would be willing to entertain this idea. I think it could be fun and possibly improve our lives.

So, normally we receive gifts when it's our birthday. There are a couple problems with this tradition as I see it. The first one is that we need to remember others' birthdays, which I suppose is less of a problem these days with help from Facebook. Another problem is that when we get inundated with gifts all at once, we usually don't really get to fully enjoy them all. A third problem is that we have to shop for gifts throughout the year since birthdays are usually a bit scattered.

The idea that I'd like to try out is this... instead of receiving gifts on our birthdays, we should be giving them out. So, on my birthday I will give out birthday gifts to everyone in my gift-giving circle of friends and family. I will then expect to receive gifts on all of their birthdays. This solves all three of the problems I mentioned. Also, I do believe that receiving gifts spread out over the year will marginally improve the happiness levels in our lives.

The question now is... who's in?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Portfolio Update and Vanguard Index Fund News

Added a small position in SunPower (SPWRA) at 13.72 to the long-term portfolio. The company's stock has lagged its major competitors over the past 1-2 years, and I believe it's worth taking on some risk for a decent return if the company can continue to stay on track earnings-wise. Also, recently the company has reported some news suggesting that it is becoming more cost-competitive. All in all, as we approach year-end, 2010 is looking reasonably good and if the positive trend, I think we can see shares moving north of $16 by early next year.

Now, for Vanguard news... anyone that holds index funds through Vanguard should look into converting their Investor shares to Admiral shares. The Admiral share minimums were recently reduced to $10K (down from $100K). Admiral shares are much more cost efficient, as they carry an expense ratio that is roughly half that of Investor shares.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Possibly Good Idea for Satellite Radio

I subscribe to XM/Sirius satellite radio. I like it quite a bit, and I've been a listener for quite some time. In fact, I can't remember the last time that I listened to normal radio in my own car.

Here is one feature that I would personally use if they added it... a simple 'remember this song' button. Right now, as music is beamed down to my car radio, I can see the name and artist of the song being played on the display panel. And, often times, I really want to remember the song, because it's something new that I might want to hear more of. But, I clearly can't write anything down since I'm driving.

How nice it would be if I could just push a 'remember this song' button. And, based on my own preference, a compiled list will be sent to my e-mail once a week/twice a month/etc. The e-mail would not only include a list of the songs I've asked the system to remember, but it would also have some handy links that point me to where I could buy the songs or albums -- this feature would be something that XM/Sirius could monetize fairly easily.

It seems that when the radio is first turned on, it needs to make contact with the satellites to authorize. Why can't it simply send another buffer of data (songs to be remembered from my most recent trip) that was stored locally. Sure, we'd be lagging by a single trip, but that's better than nothing.

So, XM/Sirius people... get on this. But, remember not to charge extra for this feature, as few if any would find enough value in it to pay extra... just monetize by sending me links to purchase the music.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Another Quick Update

Sold Research In Motion (RIMM) Oct $52.50 calls for 0.53 against the Oct $50 calls I bought earlier this week at $1.20.

This means that I've effectively established a Bull Call Spread $50-$52.50 at a price of $0.67.

Excluding commissions, etc...

Break-even at $50.67
Max Loss (-$0.67) at $50 or below
Max Gain (+$1.83) at $52.50 or above

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quick Trade

Bought some Oct $50 Research In Motion (RIMM) calls for 1.20 in anticipation of any positive announcements to come out of their developer conference (specifically the so-called 'Black Pad'). Didn't buy a large amount or anything, so it's fairly small risk. But, if shares move, then it could pay off nicely.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tipping Checksum

Recently, I have become aware that some restaurant employees pad their tips by adjusting upward the value on the tip line and total (even at some nice places!). For the most part, the increases are for $1 or $2. I don't go back and match every single credit card receipt to the credit card statement line items, so it would be nearly impossible for me to notice this.

Starting today, I am going to try something new. And, depending on whether or not it inconveniences me or not, I may make it a permanent practice.

I will tip in such a way that the sum of the digits in the final total will be 9 (mod 10) -- basically the last digit of the sum will be a 9.

Quick examples...

Example 1

Pre-Tip Total = $49.74
Round Tipping (my current practice) = $8.00
Total = $57.74, which has a sum of 5+7+7+4 = 23. [3 (mod 10)]

So, I will want to subtract 4 cents.

New Tipping = $7.96
New Total = $57.70, which has my desired sum that is 9 (mod 10)

Example 2

Pre-Tip Total = $79.16
Round Tipping (my current practice) = $12.00
Total = $91.16, which has a sum of 9+1+1+6 = 17. [7 (mod 10)]

So, I will want to add 2 cents.

New Tipping = $12.02
New Total = $91.18, which has my desired sum that is 9 (mod 10)

Of course, roughly 10% of the time I will not need to adjust my round tip. And, that's completely fine, as any future adjustment to the value will likely break my checksum constraint.

Once I begin this practice, it should be relatively easy to look at credit card line items for restaurant charges (excluding fast food). Also, since I normally tip on take-out orders, I won't need to differentiate between dine-in and take-out line items.

In any case, I guess I'll have to wait and see if this is going to be annoying to keep up or not.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


A few weeks back, I went down to SoCal for a belated birthday dinner for my Dad (and, also to hang out with some friends, hit the beach, etc). The first night I was down there, I went to Tokyo Shabu Shabu in Rowland Heights with Duke and my sister. I personally thought the place sucked... not that I'm a shabu expert or anything. Good thing we had some GroupOn coupon or I'd be a bit peeved.

For the birthday meal, Duke and the rest of my family went to Providence in Los Angeles. I had heard a lot of good things about the restaurant, and I was pretty excited to dine there. Since I'm lazy, I won't say much more and just let the pictures do the talking. We opted for the five course tasting menu with a two additional dishes spliced in (the truffles and the salt-roasted prawns).

Anyway, here are the pics.

Partial View of Our Table

Butter and Salt

Amuse Bouche - Three Alcoholic Teasers

Kanpachi from Kagoshima, Japan

Block Island Scallop

Waiter Preparing the Salt-Roasted Santa Barbara Prawns

Salt-Roasted Santa Barbara Prawns

Truffles and Risotto

Wild Pacific Halibut

Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin

Yuzu Curd Meringue

End of Meal Sweets

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Last Picture Show

I just got done watching The Last Picture Show. It's pretty old... 1971. The film has a lot going on, and I enjoyed it. It's a movie about two young friends in a small Texas town as they make their transition into adulthood. Anyway, the story is decent so I never did get bored or anything. This movie is where Cybill Shepherd made her film debut, and there's also a couple other famous actors in it. There's Jeff Bridges and Randy Quaid, too.

But, why did I bother posting this? Because, while watching the movie I couldn't help but think that the young Cybill Shepherd looks like Reese Witherspoon. I don't know why I keep thinking everyone looks like someone else, but it is what it is. Anyway, go watch the movie if you haven't seen it before, it's worthwhile.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

1-4-24 Simulation

So, I've written some simple simulation code for the 1-4-24 game. If you're not familiar with it, see this old post: 1-4-24 Dice Game.

Edit: I found a bug in my code, so I've updated the simulation results.
Edit #2: I found another bug in my code, and so I've updated the results again. And, added ran a couple other strategies just to see results.

I ran an initial simulation with a simple default strategy as follows:

1) Always keep 1 and 4 if you don't already have them.
2) Always keep 6 if you already have both a 1 and a 4.
3) If you didn't keep anything in the current roll (1/4/6 as per Rules #1 and #2) , then keep a single die (the highest valued one).

Score Frequency PDF CDF
Not Qualified 4324214 (4.32%) (100.00%)
4 0 (0.00%) (95.68%)
5 11 (0.00%) (95.68%)
6 143 (0.00%) (95.68%)
7 1094 (0.00%) (95.68%)
8 5670 (0.01%) (95.67%)
9 21906 (0.02%) (95.67%)
10 75295 (0.08%) (95.65%)
11 222711 (0.22%) (95.57%)
12 562945 (0.56%) (95.35%)
13 1239852 (1.24%) (94.79%)
14 2489387 (2.49%) (93.55%)
15 4420645 (4.42%) (91.06%)
16 6855657 (6.86%) (86.64%)
17 9436721 (9.44%) (79.78%)
18 11863564 (11.86%) (70.34%)
19 14150677 (14.15%) (58.48%)
20 13048294 (13.05%) (44.33%)
21 11259056 (11.26%) (31.28%)
22 8955723 (8.96%) (20.02%)
23 6549697 (6.55%) (11.07%)
24 4516738 (4.52%) (4.52%)

Here are results for a different strategy. Based on these results, it seems superior in most cases -- one case where it would not be superior is if you need only to score 15 to win (the following strategy hits 15+ 85% of the time while the previously described default strategy gets you there 91% of the time).

Evaluate the dice in the following sorted order: (1+4), 6, 5, 3, 2

1) Always keep 1 and 4 if you don't already have them.
2) Always keep 6 if you already have both a 1 and a 4.
3) If you have 2 or fewer dice left to consider, then keep a 5.
4) If you have only one die left to consider, then keep a 4. (Basically, expected value of a single roll is 3.5. You are 50% to do worse than a 4, and only 33% to do better. So, keeping the 4 is best.)
5) If you didn't keep anything in the current roll (as per above rules) , then keep a single die (the highest valued one).

Score Frequency PDF CDF
Not Qualified
12031334 (12.03%) (100.00%)
4 0 (0.00%) (87.97%)
5 14 (0.00%) (87.97%)
6 106 (0.00%) (87.97%)
7 746 (0.00%) (87.97%)
8 3596 (0.00%) (87.97%)
9 14262 (0.01%) (87.96%)
10 49197 (0.05%) (87.95%)
11 147225 (0.15%) (87.90%)
12 372987 (0.37%) (87.75%)
13 821681 (0.82%) (87.38%)
14 1633170 (1.63%) (86.56%)
15 2888930 (2.89%) (84.93%)
16 4484273 (4.48%) (82.04%)
17 6258644 (6.26%) (77.55%)
18 9710872 (9.71%) (71.29%)
19 11806824 (11.81%) (61.58%)
20 11650430 (11.65%) (49.78%)
21 11174701 (11.17%) (38.13%)
22 12093475 (12.09%) (26.95%)
23 10505528 (10.51%) (14.86%)
24 4352005 (4.35%) (4.35%)

Here's the 'go for broke' strategy, where you are going for 24 only. This means that you are going to keep all 6's (up to 4) and keep 1 and 4 as they present themselves. This strategy is forced if someone before you had gotten 24, and so you need specifically 24 to tie.

Score Frequency PDF CDF
Not Qualified 14806947 (14.81%) (100.00%)
4 1 (0.00%) (85.19%)
5 9 (0.00%) (85.19%)
6 117 (0.00%) (85.19%)
7 728 (0.00%) (85.19%)
8 3590 (0.00%) (85.19%)
9 14230 (0.01%) (85.19%)
10 49667 (0.05%) (85.17%)
11 146853 (0.15%) (85.12%)
12 374034 (0.37%) (84.98%)
13 821225 (0.82%) (84.60%)
14 1625200 (1.63%) (83.78%)
15 2859193 (2.86%) (82.16%)
16 4400751 (4.40%) (79.30%)
17 6108761 (6.11%) (74.90%)
18 9339354 (9.34%) (68.79%)
19 11297706 (11.30%) (59.45%)
20 11116484 (11.12%) (48.15%)
21 10652890 (10.65%) (37.04%)
22 11547947 (11.55%) (26.38%)
23 10035266 (10.04%) (14.83%)
24 4799047 (4.80%) (4.80%)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Combinatorial Madness - The Final Post

This is a continuation from: Combinatorial Madness - Follow Up.

So, a colleague of mine was able to solve the original potions problem such that the solution was the double factorial and not the summation. Thus, he was able to kill two birds with one stone. His way of looking at the problem shows both that the solution of the problem is, in fact, the double factorial and that by doing so, produces a proof by combinatorial argument of the double factorial identity.

For those unfamiliar, a proof by combinatorial argument is basically where you show two different ways to count the same thing, each having its own expression. Thus, both expressions must be equal, since they both count the same thing.

I take no credit for the following... it was solely the work of my colleague. If I mangle his argument, I apologize. I'm sure that I could be clearer about some parts, but I do think that the reasoning is solid. Anyway, this is basically how it goes.

Say that we want to know the solution to the N potions problem. Suppose that the solution of the k potions problem is A(k). With (N-1) potions, the total number of final potion products is A(N-1). Now, in producing a single final product with (N-1) initial potions, we would have gone through (N-2) iterations where some potion was combined with another potion in each iteration.

So, we can view these (N-2) combination actions as C_1, C_2, C_3, ..., C_(N-2). Any one of these combinations can be expressed as X+Y, X and Y being available potions at that junction. In order to tackle the N potion problem, we would like to add a new potion (the Nth potion -- call it Z) to the total mix. The question now is how can we add it such that we don't end up with any overcounting, etc?

For any combination action, we can inject the newly introduced Nth potion (Z) into that particular iteration -- however, notice that there are two ways in which this injection can happen. We can replace the combination that we're focused on with one where we've injected Z as ((X + Z)+Y) or as (X + (Y+Z)). Since there are (N-2) combination actions where we can perform this injection, we have 2(N-2) possible injection points.

We're missing one more injection point. That is the case where we simply combine the newly introduced Nth potion at the very end after C_(N-2) has produced some final product. There is exactly one injection point at the very end of our chain of C_k's. That adds one, so that gives us (2(N-2) + 1) injection points, and it's clear that adding Z to each of these injection points creates a completely new final product given this particular chain of combination actions (C_k's).

Now, we also know that there are A(N-1) different chains of combination actions that produce unique final products. Thus, we have (2(N-2)+1) * A(N-1) total final products for the N potions case. This simplifies to (2N-3) * A(N-1), which is clearly equivalent to (2N-3)!!, especially given that we know A(2) = 1 (the trivial 2-potion problem) .

So, this is a direct explanation of why the N-potion problem solution is (2N-3)!!, and it gives us the combinatorial proof that (2N-3)!! is equal to our other expression (from the previous post):

I know the above wasn't explained previously. That was me being lazy. Anyway, the explanation of why the above summation counts the final products in the N-potion problem is as follows (this one I actually helped come up with).

We are essentially enumerating all possible 2-partitions of the N potions being combined. A(i) represents the total final product count of the first of two partitions where the Nth potion is not a member. The A(N-i) represents the total final product count of the second of the two partitions and it is where the Nth potion is a member. The product of the two final product counts (i.e. A(i) * A(N-i) will result in the total number of final products when all N potions (both partitions) are considered). We are allowed to do this since our construction ensures no overcounting.

To further clarify, our loop going from i=1 to (N-1) gives us all the possible cardinalities of our partitions. We must multiply by ((N-1) Choose i) in order to produce all the combinations possible that make up the partitions with those cardinalities. Again, since we cannot overcount due to our construction, we can now sum the final product counts for all the possible partitions, giving us A(N).

Hope that was clear enough. And, in a way it was nice that we did not initially come up with the solution that leads directly to the double factorial. Because of this, we now have a pretty nifty combinatorial identity relating the recursive summation described above to the double factorial.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Combinatorial Madness - Follow-Up

So, here's a follow-up to my previous post: Combinatorial Madness.
A follow-up to this follow-up post can be found here: Combinatorial Madness - Final Post.

After a fair bit more work at this and thinking about it (with a good deal of help from a few colleagues), here's where we have arrived. We basically have a good explanation of how we can formulate a recursive solution to the problem. And, it now comes to the point where we have to verify the following conjecture. We believe it holds true, but haven't yet proven it nor tried to prove it.

Assuming it's true, it is a pretty cool double factorial identity.

Here it is.

Note that A(k) is the solution for the potion problem where N=k.

So, any takers? We haven't tried to prove the above, but basically, if you can prove that then that basically proves that the solution to the original potions problem follows the double factorial.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Combinatorial Madness

A Follow-Up Post can be found here: Combinatorial Madness Follow-Up.

I've gone mad. Here I am on a Friday night, absolutely consumed by a combinatorial problem that I came up with to challenge myself a while back. Only tonight have I begun thinking about it more seriously. And, either it's quite difficult or I'm just not getting it. If anyone wants to give it a go, please do, then teach me how you were able solve it if you figure it out. Because, I think I'm kind of stuck.

This is long, but if you like numbers, you may enjoy this.

Here's the problem.

There are N potions. Combining any two potions will form a completely new potion. Thus, (A+B)+C does not equal A+(B+C), as A+B forms something completely new, call it E, and B+C forms something completely new, call it F. So the former is E+C which is completely different than A+F.

In a single iteration, two potions are combined. After N-1 iterations, there is a single final potion. The question is, how many different final products can be created starting with the N potions?

This is much more difficult than the trivial question, which is how many possible paths are there from N potions down to a final product. The total number of possible paths is clearly (N choose 2)*(N-1 choose 2)*(N-2 choose 2)*...*(2 choose 2). The total possible paths will overcount the total number of possible final products, as some paths will lead to the exact same potion.

Here's what my friend Duke and I have come up with...

N=2, clearly it's 1 possible final product.
N=3, clearly there are 3 possible final products.

For N=4, it starts getting a bit more interesting. Here's a way I came up with that helps us count the number of final products possible. If you think about it some, you will realize that with N=4, there are only 2 possible forms in which a final product can be created.

Here they are:

Form 1 = ((A+B)+C)+D
Form 2 = (A+B)+(C+D)

It should be clear that (A+(B+C))+D is an isomorphism, and doesn't give us a new final product.

Now, there are 4! ways in which we can arrange A, B, C, and D. But, we also notice that the order of A and B does not matter. Thus, we overcount by a factor of two. So, there are actually 4!/2 = 12 final products of Form 1.

For Form 2, we notice that we overcount by a factor of 2 three times (once for A/B, once for C/D, and once for AB/CD). So, we have 4!/(2^3) = 3 final products of Form 2.

So, for N=4, we have a total of 12+3 = 15 possible final products.

Following the same counting strategy for N=5, here are the possible forms.

Form 1: (((A+B)+C)+D)+E
Form 2: ((A+B)+C)+(D+E)
Form 3: ((A+B)+(C+D))+E

For Form 1, again we have overcounting by a factor of 2, so we get 5!/2 = 60 for N=5.
For Form 2, we overcount by a factor of 2 twice (2^2). So, this gives us 5!/4 = 30. Note that the order of (A+B) and (D+E) does matter, which is why we only overcount for (A,B) and (D,E) and not for (AB,DE).
For Form 3, we notice that (A+B) and (C+D) order does not matter, so we have an additional factor of 2 overcounting compared with Form 2. This gives us 5!/8 = 15.

So, for N=5, there are a total of 105 possible final products.

Since, I'm a real glutton for punishment, here's my attempt at N=6. I came up with 6 possible forms, hopefully I'm not missing any.

Here are the six forms I came up with for N=6:

(((A+B)+(C+D))+(E+F)) – I think this overcounts by factor of 2^3 (A/B, C/D, AB/CD) [Note: This is incorrect -- see the Edit at bottom.]
(((((A+B)+C)+D)+E)+F) – overcounts by factor of 2 (A/B)
((((A+B)+C)+(D+E))+F) – overcounts by factor of 2^2 (A/B, D/E)
((((A+B)+C)+D)+(E+F)) – overcounts by factor of 2^2 (A/B, E/F)
((((A+B)+(C+D))+E)+F) – overcounts by factor of 2^3 (A/B, C/D, AB/CD)
(((A+B)+C)+((D+E)+F)) – overcounts by factor of 2^3 (A/B, D/E, ABC/DEF)

This gives us 6!/2 = 360, 6!/4 = 180 (twice), 6!/8 = 90 (three times), which is 990 total possible final products.

I was really hoping that I would have come up with 945 total possible final products, but I just don't see where I've gone wrong above. Maybe I did, so if you spot a mistake, please let me know.

If it had been 945, then we have a double factorial pattern for odd values... 1*3*5*7*...*(2n-1). 1, 3, 15, 105, 945, 10395, etc.

But, since I can't convince myself that it's 945, I am officially stuck.



(((A+B)+(C+D))+(E+F)) – I think this overcounts by factor of 2^3 (A/B, C/D, AB/CD) -- I neglected the E/F. This makes the overcounting factor 2^4, and that brings us to 945 possible final products for N=6. So, the solution is pretty much double factorial, but I do not have an actual proof. Will think about it, but maybe leave it to others, hehe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Filling, But Ghetto, Bachelor Dinner

So, this is what happens when you are the unfortunate soul that faces the following challenges:

a) lack of culinary skills
b) have no instant/canned food available
c) too lazy to go out and buy some food

Seriously ghetto, but at least it tastes alright. Here's the recipe for those who want to punish themselves.

1 Cup rice
2 Budget Gourmet frozen dinners of your choice (I realize this might be considered instant, but it hardly makes for a filling meal on its own).
1 Pitan/Century Egg
Maggi for added taste

So lame. Ha ha.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sold Some Calls and Arena Update

Sold Linear Technology (LLTC) August $33 Calls at 0.50 (covering the entire position).
Sold Cisco Systems (CSCO) August $24 Calls at 0.43 (covering 3/4 of the position).

I am willing to buy the calls back at a loss if the stocks move above the strike price, but within reason, come expiration day.

And, it turns out that the market sees the Vivus (VVUS) FDA setback as a positive for Arena Pharmaceutical (ARNA). Shares are now at their 52-week high, $5.91. Just three weeks ago shares were trading near $3.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Down She Goes

Looks like FDA advisory panel rejects Vivus' drug, Qnexa. Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) shares gave back all of its gains today plus some. If this were a big position I'd be kicking myself big time for not dumping it when it was up 30%. What a wild day for ARNA: Day's Range = 3.57 - 5.72.

Arena Pharmaceutical Pop

Shares of Arena Pharmaceutical (ARNA) got a nice pop today (up 30% at the moment) following yesterday's announcement that the New England Journal of Medicine would be publishing positive results of the two-year BLOOM (Behavioral Modification and Lorcaserin for Overweight and Obesity Management) trial. From what I read, the safety profile for Lorcaserin was better than that of current drugs used for obesity treatment, such as Xenical.

Additionally, one of Arena's main competitors, Vivus (VVUS), is currently awaiting the recommendation by the FDA advisory panel. That result should be coming out later today.

In any case, I don't have a large position in ARNA. But, it's still nice to see such a move in the stock.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Permutation Generation in the Unix Shell

Okay, so I was chatting with a friend over lunch recently about generating permutations that could be used, say, as test inputs. If we have a known number of sets of elements, then simple nested loops would work just fine. However, if we don't know ahead of time how many sets we'd like to produce permutations for, then it becomes a bit more challenging to produce permutations. You could write some code to do this recursively, but who really wants to do that.

Coming to the rescue is the Unix Shell (works fine with Cygwin Bash Shell also). Check this out.

echo {a,b,c}{11,22,33}{zyx,wvut,srq}
a11zyx a11wvut a11srq a22zyx a22wvut a22srq a33zyx a33wvut a33srq b11zyx b11wvut b11srq b22zyx b22wvut b22srq b33zyx b33wvut b33srq c11zyx c11wvut c11srq c22zyx c22wvut c22srq c33zyx c33wvut c33srq
Altering the output format to suit your needs is simple as well.

echo \({a,b,c},{1,2,3}\) | sed 's/ /\n/g'


How cool is that? I wish I knew about this handy trick before today.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Manresa, Los Gatos

Recently, I had dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. It has been on my list of places to try, and finally I got around to going. I had very high expectations going in, which probably hurt the experience some. I am just too lazy to write much, but I will give a short review.

I have to say that Manresa provides some very creative and original dishes. I think that's really great, and it's probably one of the best reasons to go. However, a few of the dishes were what I would consider a miss. Most noticeable was one soft shell crab dish with yuzu flavor and some chorizo paste. The yuzu was just overpowering, and we felt that it heavily detracted from what could have been. And, the beef bavette looked much better than it actually was, as it was not cooked quite to perfection and one of the three pieces was rather tough. It really could have been a great dish. The flavor was just right as was everything else with that dish.

To be fair, the dishes that worked out were not just good, they were great. If you are willing to chance the occasional sub-par dish, then it might be worth your while to come here. If the price were better, I would go again and give them another try. I felt that overall, the experience was not quite worth the price. Personally, I'm a little surprised by their 2-star Michelin rating, but maybe it was just an off day for them -- for example, I thought the food at Melisse and Spago, both 2-stars, were a fair bit better, and I felt that Le Cirque and some other 1-stars were better as well.

The service was very good throughout the entire meal, which lasted just around three hours. And, I thought the presentation of food was decent as well. I did have one minor complaint about the seating arrangements, and that is the tables were really close together. Maybe others don't mind, but to me, it felt just a tad cramped.

Anyway, here are pictures from that evening.

Manresa - the outside

Amuse - Raspberry Gazpacho

Amuse - Arpege Egg
(this was delicious)

Japanese Sea Bream Sashimi in Chives and Oil

Into the vegetable garden... their natural juices

Soft Shell Crab with yuzu flavor and chorizo paste

Monterey Abalone with Mushrooms
(this was great)

Napa Valley Lamb and Tongue Confit
(another winner)

Beef Bavette with pickled ramps

Intermezzo - Nasturtium Sorbet and Granita

Cheese Plate - Manchego, Tomme, Chimay, Camembert

Flavors of New Orleans: Coffee, chicory, pecan praline, beignets, and banana

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ireland, Part 2: Kilkenny

Continued from Ireland, Part 1: Dublin.

So, we took off for Kilkenny from Dublin in the morning. This decision more or less established our itinerary, as we'd be taking a clockwise path circling the South and West of Ireland. The drive to Kilkenny was a short one, perhaps an hour and a half or so. One thing to mention about the roads/highways in Ireland is that they are in amazingly good shape. And, based on some of the warning signs, it seems that their drivers must be accustomed to their pristine condition. There would be signs that would inform you of hidden dips that were forthcoming. Moments later you would basically pass over the slightest unevenness in the pavement... and, that's the dip. Crazy.

Well, we get to Kilkenny, and we find parking in a lot somewhere along the River Nore. Oops, I mean, we found parking in a car park, which is the term used in a number of countries including Ireland. We walk along the river a bit and notice that there are signs warning you that stealing a lifesaver is tantamount to stealing a life. Maybe drowning is a common problem there, I don't know.

River Nore

Eventually, we make it into the heart of town, and we find their tourist office to get some help booking a hotel in Cork City for the night, as we were only planning to stick around Kilkenny for the day. We took care of everything, and we learned that due to the May Day bank holiday, the main tourist attractions had limited hours, but they didn't prevent us from being able to check them out.

We walk around the city to pass the time, and we notice that Ireland sure has a lot of bookmakers. I think we saw several in Kilkenny, and we saw a crapton of them in Dublin. It's just not something I'm used to, but from conversations with locals during my trip, I hear they love to bet on sports. At some point, we end up at ... to have a drink as we wait for our first tourist spot, the Kilkenny Castle, to open its doors.

Ladbrokes Bookmaker

So, we get there and sure enough, it's a castle. That's a relief, I was thinking it was going to be another pseudo-castle experience. I thought the castle was pretty cool and worth checking out. Unfortunately, they did not allow any photography, and my recollection sucks. I do remember there was a giant room full of portraits, and if I recall, you could also observe an art restoration person at work in the back of the room. Of the many rooms, some of them had their own unique style, such as the Chinese Bedroom and the Blue Bedroom.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle Close-up

Afterward, we went off to grab some grub at Langton's, which was a restaurant within a pub. That's what it felt like anyway. I was not all that impressed. My food wasn't bad, but it was not anything remarkable. JC, however, really enjoyed her panini. Overall, the price wasn't too bad, so value-wise it was acceptable. To drink, we had some beer and also Bulmer's Irish Cider (exactly the same as Magner's, but branded under a different name in Ireland).

Here are a few pictures of food at Langton's.

Langton's - Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Langton's - Panini

Langton's - Lamb and Cabbage

After the meal, we walked around some more, and we saw a restaurant called Paris, Texas. Maybe it's not that funny, but I thought it was worth taking a picture.

Paris, Texas

Okay, after we walked past Texas, we headed over to the Rothe House and Garden. This was another important tourist attraction in the city. It was a house and garden owned by the very wealthy Rothe family back in the 1600's. Inside the home were an assortment of artifacts that were unearthed on the property as well as old pieces of the original structure.

Portrait of a Rothe House Resident
(I Can't Recall His Name)

It was interesting to see everything... they even had some old newspaper clippings from way back (17th or 18th century). Here's one picture I took of commodities news.

Commodities News from Long Ago

The garden was accessible from a different part of the property, so you actually had to walk for a little bit to get to it. The weather kind of sucked, so pictures were not so nice. But, on the way to the garden, we did manage to see some Irish graffiti.

Rothe House Garden on an Ugly Day

Some Grafitti in Kilkenny

Once we were done poking around the garden, we walked around the city some more, and then we left for Cork, the second largest city in Ireland.

Some Street in Kilkenny

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quick Update

Added shares of Cisco Systems (CSCO) at just under $23 today. Will likely hold on to the shares for some time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ireland, Part 1: Dublin

So, here's the first installment of my Ireland trip report. Hopefully, I can avoid being lazy often enough to finish this report. I guess we'll see. Here we go...

It took a long time to get from San Francisco to Dublin. The flight to Philadelphia wasn't too bad, and the layover was more or less fine. The longer leg of the trip from Philly to Dublin was a whole different story. In any case, we made it without incident.

Rental Car - A Serious POS
(this photo doesn't come close to telling the whole story)

Upon arriving, we picked up our rental car, which turned out to be a complete piece of shit (during our trip it started making some horrible engine noises, and I do believe that there was a real chance that it would just stop functioning). After some settling in time of getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road and not knowing the road rules fully (for example, there is no left turn on red), we managed to make it to our first destination, Cassidys Hotel.

It was too early to check in, but we dropped off our bags and obtained a city map. We walked around a bit soaking in our new surroundings despite us both being exhuasted from the trip over. First thing to note, there are quite a few Asians in Dublin. They were definitely the predominant immigrant group around. Second thing to note, the weather sucked... it was gray, cold, and raining. Not that that was going to stop us from exploring a bit.

Allow me to interject briefly here and say that one really strange things about Ireland is that the people are obsessed with ice cream. They absolutely love ice cream. It will be cold and rainy, and you'll see quite a few people toughing it out eating their favorite flavor. And, another thing... the women there seem to have a penchant for miniskirts too. It was not uncommon to see the trifecta -- lady in a miniskirt standing in the rain eating ice cream... seriously!

Okay, where were we... oh ya, so we walked down O'Connell (a main street cutting through Dublin), and I went into a bank to change some money only to find out that there's been a recent counterfeit bill problem and so they refused to change my $100 bills. Bummer. At least they pointed me to some travel exchange place further down the street that would take them.

O'Connell Street Post-Rainfall

With money in hand, we figured it was time to grab a bite to eat. Having no clue about anything and not being in the mood to seek out specific recommendations from our tour book, we wandered into a pub called the Bachelor Inn. I had some Guinness Stew, which I thought tasted pretty good, but I'm no expert. I also had my first Irish Guinness here, and I have to agree that Guinness does taste different over in Ireland. Hard to explain, but it tastes more concentrated... a more enhanced dark flavor.

Bachelor Inn - Guinness Stew

Anyway, after the meal we talked for a little bit with the bartender. He was really helpful about giving us directions to my company's Dublin office, the run down on basic driving rules, and also recommended that we go check out KilKenny (when introducing the city, he asked if we were familiar with South Park -- Kill Kenny, ha ha).

Afterward, we headed out to my company's Dublin office (outside the city center in a rather nice business park area), met with a contact there, and hung out for a little bit. I was a bit envious of the Dublin office since it was just so much nicer than the one I work in. But, enough on that.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, it was time to check in. The hotel room was nice enough. Nothing to write home about, but I didn't expect anything more. It was a very reasonably priced 3-star hotel situated conveniently near the Dublin Spire (Monument of Light), the world's tallest sculpture, in the City Center.

O'Connell Street and the Dublin Spire

Here's a picture of a Full Irish Breakfast over at Kingfisher's, a restaurant very close to where we stayed.

Kingfisher's - Full Irish Breakfast

While in Dublin, we put in some tourist hours checking out the Dublin Castle and the Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral was the more interesting building in my opinion. We walked around on a self-guided tour and got to examine various artifacts while admiring the old Gothic architecture. One strange thing that we saw was a mummified cat and rat that got stuck in an organ a long time ago. Apparently, the mummified animals were referenced in Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

Christ Church Cathedral

Stained Glass of St. Patrick
in Christ Church Cathedral

The Dublin Castle was not a castle at all. They were explaining that it used to be a castle back in the day, but then it burned down. However, when it was rebuilt, it no longer took on a castle form. I think there was still a standing tower, but other than that it was fairly modern. The 'castle' is now an important Irish government building. Can't say I was really impressed by the tour, but I guess we did see the underwater river that is only exposed on the castle grounds.

Dublin Castle - Damsel Room

We never did make it out to St. Patrick's Cathedral, but I did manage to get a picture of it when we walked past it.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

One of the nights, we went out to the Temple Bar area and we ate at some place called the Quays Restaurant. I liked my bangers and mash quite a bit, and I think JC was pleased with her cottage pie. It was a fairly touristy place, but I thought it was a good experience overall.

Quays Restaurant - Bangers and Mash

Quays Restaurant - Cottage Pie

On another night, we ate at a Nepalese restaurant called Montys of Kathmandu. The food was mostly good there, but quite expensive. The appetizer sampler we got was decent, but far from amazing. The main courses were very good in my opinion, and I really enjoyed their award-winning monkfish dish. I have never had Nepalese before, so it's hard to make any direct comparisons. But, I would say that while the food is indeed similar to Indian food, I felt that the flavors were different enough to make a distinction.

Montys of Kathmandu - Nepalese Restaurant

Montys - Award-Winning Monkfish Tareko

Montys - Khasi Ko Chilli (Lamb)

That same night, we found ourselves at Messrs. Maguires, a three-story 'super pub' right near the O'Connell Bridge. They brew their own beer there, but I can't really recommend their own brews after having a couple of them. I much prefer Guinness or MGD for that matter. In any case, we met a couple youngsters that night (I believe the drinking age there is 18). Anyway, it was a pretty fun night hanging out with them and their group. Lots of drinking and general partying was that night's theme.

Random Shot Taken Inside Messrs. Maguire

Afterward, we met up with some guys outside and after talking to them some about where we were from and getting past their fascination with medical marijuana, we learned that they (at least some of them) were part of a semi-famous band called the Coronas. We didn't think much of them until several days later in a different town, we saw a poster of them at a Ticketmaster booth. Anyway, they told us that the best chips in town could be had at Burdocks and that we'd be doing ourselves a serious disservice if we were to leave the city without giving them a try.

Despite the rather rough night out, we found the time to grab fish and chips over at Burdocks as was recommended by both the band and our guidebook. I liked it very much. The fish is for real, skin and all. The chips were great, and the portions were huge. Some have said it used to be way better, back with the Burdocks guy was alive, but I thought what we got tasted awesome. No complaints from me.

Burdocks - Best Chips in Town

Burdocks - Cod and Chips

Now, there is some food that Ireland just plain sucks at. The one that comes to mind is Mexican food. They simply do not get it over there. It's really crazy what you see being displayed as Mexican or Tex-Mex. We figured it might be interesting (and cheap) to grab a bite at one of Ireland's fast food chains called Abrakebabra. I chose wisely and went with a lamb kabob (it was not too bad). The less wise one went with an incredibly overpriced Taco Nachos. It was about the worst tasting nachos conceivable. First of all, salsa should not be based on a marinara sauce. That's just wrong. I could go on, but I'll give them a word of advice: CostCo -- just import gallons of pre-packaged salsa and use that instead.

Abrakebabra - Taco Nachos (amazingly bad)

Before we left Dublin, we went over to the Guinness Storehouse. It's definitely worth checking out. It's a fun and informative self-guided tour, and with paid admission, you get to pour your own pint of Guinness after some instructions on how to pour the perfect pint. At the very top of the building is a bar dubbed the Gravity Bar. From there, you get a wonderful 360-degree view of Dublin.

Perfect Pint Poured By Yours Truly at the Guinness Storehouse Bar

Dublin As Seen From Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar

Here's a short video I took of a pretty cool room that you pass through on your way out of the Guinness Storehouse.

Video: Guinness Storehouse - End of the Tour

I guess that's all I have the energy to say about the first three nights in Ireland. Next stop: Kilkenny. If you want more Dublin, don't worry as we eventually make it back for our final two nights.