Saturday, January 9, 2010

Health Cooperatives

One of my favorite college professors has an opinion piece on health cooperatives in the Christian Science Monitor. Here's the money quote:

The solution is to abolish Medicare and Medicaid, abolish the favorable tax treatment of employer-provided insurance, impose a one-price rule on procedures, and issue a voucher to every single American citizen. The creation of a voucher program would certainly take less than 1,990 pages of legislative language. This will solve the problem of the uninsured completely, immediately, and permanently in a transparent way that works with, rather than against, competition. The big losers will be special interest groups because a transparent voucher system will rob them of their ability to manipulate the system. They know this all too well, which is why they oppose it.
And this article further explains his voucher-based solution.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fiscal Haiku

After sharing one of my favorite haikus:

Haikus are easy,
but sometimes they don't make sense.
with a friend, he pointed me to This prompted me to create my very own fiscal haiku, but I decided to post it here rather than on their site. It's based on the writings attributed to Alexander Tyler.

Vote the treasury
and destroy fiscal restraint.
Vote the nation's fall.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview Questions

Most of the interview advice I've read focuses on how to answer the interviewer's questions. It is very important to learn how to present yourself to a potential employer, but the interview is also the best time seriously investigate whether the position would suit you.

I've used the questions below to gain insight into the details of a job opportunity as well as the dynamics of the group of people I would be working with. You'll notice that I ask the same questions of management as I do co-workers. I generally hope to hear the same answers from each group because divergent answers can signal trouble.

Of every interviewer:

  • What is your education and employment experience?
  • Of your education and prior professional experience, how much do you use those skills in your current position?
  • Why did you choose to work here, and what keeps you here?

Of your potential manager:
  • How long have you managed this team?
  • Is this a new position? If not, why did the last person leave and where did they go?
  • What is your "growth plan" for my first six months? What skills will I develop that I don't currently have?
  • Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to perform this job?
  • Can you give me examples of how you've dealt with employee's frustration and how you've dealt with your frustration with them?

Of your potential co-workers:
  • How would you describe your organization's and manager's personality and management style?
  • How does communication flow between you and upper management? How often do you talk with people several "rungs" above you?
  • When an urgent matter comes from your manager, how is it delivered and managed?
  • Can you give me examples of how management deals with employee's frustration and with their frustration with you?

Of both your potential manager and co-workers:
  • How many meetings a week does your team have? How long do last? What is their purpose? How productive are they?
  • What skills are required to be successful at this job?
  • When top performers leave the company why do they leave and where do they usually go?
  • How are new ideas, procedures, tools, etc. received?
  • What kind of work are people with analytical backgrounds involved in?
  • What kind of people get promoted?
  • How are project assignments decided?

Please feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments. I'll add worthy contributions to the post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Office 2007

My employer just "upgraded" to Office 2007. Among all the new annoyances, this is my favorite:

I open a file and I'm greeted with a message box that reads, File error: data may have been lost.

Could they have possibly come up with a more ambiguous and vague error? Data may have been lost? That seems like something important enough to provide more than a message box with an "OK" button to press. No "click here for more information", just a button to acknowledge that something bad may have happened.

Office 2007, the Vista of office suites.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chuck Norris Facts

If you're not familiar with Chuck Norris Facts, I suggest you check them out. These were sent to me by Dirk Eddelbuettel via email.

Chuck Norris, investment banker
from Felix Salmon by Felix Salmon

If you haven't subscribed to The Epicurean Dealmaker's twitter feed, do so now. This morning he decided he was going to go all Chuck Norris Facts on us, and came up with some absolute classics:

  • Little-known Chuck Norris Fact: Chuck Norris does not mark to market. The market marks to Chuck.

  • Chuck Norris does not go bankrupt. Chuck Norris ruptures banks.

  • Source of hedge fund survivorship bias?: Funds that pay Chuck Norris 2 and 20 survive; others don't.

  • Private equity: Chuck Norris does not believe in leverage. Chuck Norris believes in crowbars.

  • Investment banking: No-one defers Chuck Norris's compensation.

  • Capital structure: No-one subordinates Chuck Norris. All his equity is preferred.

  • If Chuck Norris devised the bank stress tests, not even the Treasury Department would survive.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mixed Freight Indicators

  • Container shipping is at an all-time low.
  • ATA truck tonnage ticked up in March.
  • LA port traffic took at 35% year-over-year nosedive in February.
The charts below show three ETFs - the iShares Dow Jones Transportation Index (IYT) and the Claymore/Delta Global Shipping Index (SEA), respectively. They both have rebounded off recent lows but IYT - which has more significant volume - has shown declining volume as the rally has progressed.

The ETFs seem to be responding to the recent news, not discounting the future continued/likely declines in transportation companies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Best Policy