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December 24, 2003

My Christmas Tree

While I was attending grad school (at the University of Texas in Austin), I purchased a little Christmas tree, to decorate my spartan apartment. I've continued to put the little tree up each year, since moving to Los Angeles (about five years ago). Now that my townhouse is bigger and less spartan, it might be time to get a bigger tree. I've attached some pictures of this year's assembly, as well as of my lovely assistant.
Elizabeth providing assistance by holding the top of the tree.
The tree is maybe five feet tall, and artifical.
The final assembly.
Elizabeth, black and white.

Thanksgiving in Colorado

I had the fortune of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my girlfriend's family, in Colorado. The food was plentiful, and the trip was quite pleasant. I've attached a couple of pictures from the trip.
The Mandile family, of Niwot, Colorado. From left to right: Richard, Elizabeth, Janice, Greg, Andrew, and Chris.
Elizabeth and her brothers.
We went for a drive into Sunrise Canyon, which featured views of Boulder.
I went for some picture-taking on Sunrise Canyon, which featured some views of a car.
The Mandile's house in Niwot had some great views of the mountains. They are part of a home-owners association that maintains some common areas, including this park. Note the bits of snow on the ground.
Elizabeth playing with her cat, Cleo.

December 13, 2003

End of Quarter 1

Today, I finished my first semester of the UCLA fully-employed MBA program. The final obstacle, the statistics final, was met and exceeded.

So what do I think of my experience to date?

There have been three main classes so far. The first class was a five-day intensive orientation class, focusing on business leadership. The other two classes, accounting and statistics, took place once a week (Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning, respectively) for the last 12 weeks.

The orientation class had some interesting features. There was a lot of group work involved, so it gave students a good chance to meet others. (My best way of meeting people is working with them. This shouldnít be surprising, given my innate introversion and work ethic. Perhaps a generalization would be to say that one of the best ways of meeting people is to share common experiences.) The last two group projects that I worked on were difficult experiences. I think that we missed some important points (or were not clear enough in our presentation), and that we put more work into the projects than necessary (perhaps due to the group dynamics). On the other hand, the other group members were fine people to meet, and I think that some of them will become friends.

I was a bit apprehensive going into the main part of the quarter. I wasnít sure what to expect out of the classes. Fortunately, both accounting and statistics were very analytical. I can play with numbers and math all day. This may help ease the transition from the engineering and mathematics world that I am familiar, to the business world, which involves non-quantitative skills at times. I usually spend an hour or two on the weekday evenings (Monday through Wednesday) working on my homework, which is actually a fairly significant impact considering that my job takes more than 40 hours a week, too.

The professor was one of the main features of the introductory accounting class. Dr. David Aboody brought a surprising passion to accounting. There is an underlying story to the numbers reported in financial statements, and that story needs to be teased out in order to truly understand the value of a company. Aboody discussed and gave examples of how the financials are manipulated, so that we, as prospective investors, can make more informed judgments. (I suppose that he was also giving examples of how we, as prospective business owners, can manipulate numbers to fake prospective investors. Knowledge is power, and it is up the person to use it ethically.)

Dr. Richard Stern, the statistics professor, was an interesting contrast to Aboody. His style was more along the lines of a traditional academic and mathematics-orientated professor. (I admit to identifying with him, due to my somewhat similar background and idiosyncrasies. How can I not like a guy who publishes his self-written C code in the lecture notes?) I thought that the lectures were particularly good (and the lecture notes excellent), and Sternís expertise was apparent. It was not a class in the mathematics department, though, and as the examples and homework problems related the math to actual business problems. Return on investment and risk management are two of the most important topics in business, and I believe that this class provided some tools to quantify both of those.

So, it was a good quarter. (I anticipate Aís in both classes.) There was a lot of work, of course. But I am glad to be back in the academic world, and I believe that I learned interesting and useful things. I have been very impressed with the quality of professors in the program. Some might say that I havenít been stretched yet (out of the quantitative world), and that future classes will kick my butt. But I am learning new things, and gaining new perspective on old things. The future will hold new challenges, and the skills that I have now will form the basis for embracing it.

December 07, 2003

Christmas Wish List 2003

My family and I have gift exchanges on Christmas. I've attached my wish list on this blog, to make it easier to transmit. Please note that this only covers a small part of what I want... Unfortunately, the stuff that I need most (time, inspiration, improved cognative function) are not acceptable candidates for gifts. I have to apologize for the shortness of the list. I will attempt to add more to it, especially when I dig up my reading list.
  • Clothes
    • Long-sleeve knit shirts.† Size: Large.† Suitable for work.
    • Flat-front Docker-style pants (for work).† Size 33-32.
    • Blue jeans. Dark blue. Size 33-32. (NOT 32-32, unfortunately.)
    • Socks for running
    • Black socks
    • A pair of dress shoes.† Black.† Size 11.
    • Boxers.
    • A pair of dress shoes.† Black.† Size 11.
  • Electronic Toys
    • Weather station that can be linked to my Linux server.† Something like the Oregon Scientific WM-918.† See http://www.wxdiscounts.com/caprhowest.html or http://www2.oregonscientific.com/wired forweather/wm918.html .† It might be interesting to gather weather data for my area, and possibly run certain weather-prediction models (like http://www.mmm.ucar.edu/mm5/mm5-home.html ).† More critically, I want to start gathering more data about traffic conditions in Los Angeles.† (It would be fun and useful to develop statistical traffic models for the 405 North.)
    • Some sort of headphones or earphones.† I have been disappointed with all of the sets of headphones that I have ever owned or used.† A highly-recommended high-end earphones are the Shure e5c set (info can be found at http://www.shure.com/earphones/eseries_e5c.asp) .† The Sennheiser HD 477 headphones are also well-regarded.
    • Memory expansion card for the Palm Tungsten T3.† The thing supports SD and SDIO cards.† I eventually want to be able to play MP3ís on my PDA.† While memory cards are more versile, Palm also sells a MP3 Audio Kit (http://www.palmone.com/us/products/ accessories/expansioncards/ ).
    • One of my projects in the next year will be the linkage of my LAN with my entertainment center (i.e. stereo equipment and TV).† One component that can do the job is the Xbox gaming system (http://www.xbox.com/) from Microsoft.† Additional equipment can be soldered on to enable it to run arbitrary software (a process called modding).
    • Roomba Robotic Floor Vacuum.† http://www.roombavac.com/products/† Finally, a mostly-autonomous vacuum cleaner!
  • House
    • A three-hole punch of my very own.
    • Coffee grinder, or possibly a mortar/pestle set.
    • Corkscrew, or some way of removing wine corks.
    • Soldering kit.
    • Artwork for my walls
    • I would like to fix up my loft.† (It will probably be one of my goals for next year.)† Iím not sure how to proceed with it. It gets quite warm up there during the summer, and gets lots of light throughout the year (the south wall is a patio door).† It might be pleasant to make it a private reading area, with a couple of comfortable chairs and a bookshelf.† It is kind of small (about 7í x 8í).† Ideas would be appreciated.
    • Similarly, I would like to improve my outdoor patio.† I need outdoor patio furnature, a grill, and plants or something.† Ideas would be appreciated.† I have considered putting tile down outside, perhaps in some interesting pattern.† I have also considered making an automatic watering system for any plants out there, as I have had trouble remembering to water them.
  • Media
    • CDís. A list will be added in the near future.
    • Books. I recently purchased "Quicksilver" by Neal Stephenson, so that would not be a good gift for me.† (Maybe it would be good for others, though, as it was entertaining.)† Most of the time, I enjoy hard SF (science fiction, not fantasy). A better list of books will be added in the near future. I live within walking distance of a Borders.
      • Year's Best SF 8 - edited by Hartwell
      • Ben Bova and Greg Bear are two authors that I like but do not possess many books
      • Godel, Escher, Bach - by Hofstadter. A review is here.
      • Master and Margarita - by Bulgakov. Amazon. Paperback, please
      • Guns Germs and Steel - by Diamond. homepage here.
    • DVDs. I prefer widescreen format.† Some movies that I would like to acquire include "The Two Towers" (special edition) and others. A list will be added in the near future.
    • Magazines. I read Scientific American.
    • Computer games. I've been playing "Neverwinter Nights", so the two expansion packs might be fun.