Hashemian Blog
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UConn Huskies, 2011 Men's Basketball Champions

by @ 12:05 am
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Winning the Final game against Butler (53-41), UConn, my alma mater, claimed the men's basketball title for 2011. This despite the fact that expectations for a UConn win weren't so high. Let's not forget that they also won the Bing East title last month.

While the women team's dream of another victory didn't materialize this year, there is no denying that they made good effort, and of course their consecutive win record won't be in any danger for quite some time.

I haven't been to UConn in years, but I owe a debt of gratitude to the school and its engineering program. Much of the knowledge I learned at UConn is still applicable in my daily job.

Remembering Dad

by @ 8:46 pm
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My father passed away a couple of weeks ago from complications arising out of cancer. He had beat this disease two decades ago but this time it proved fatal and after five months of courageous battle he succumbed to the illness. I had expected the news for some time, but losing a parent, as I discovered, is a life-altering event nevertheless. There's sadness and grief, but there's also the realization that you are next in line to face death. There are no longer any buffers to give you a comfortable distance from the ultimate fate.

My father wasn't the greatest father in the world, No one is. I'm not the best father in the world either. But he was the only father I had and one must judge a person's character based on the totality of a life lived. On that basis he was a good man with qualities of integrity, honesty, kindness, and sincerity. He did have a short fuse, a hot temper, was often cynical, and had sub-par driving skills. Six years ago I vowed never to ride in his car and I kept that promise until the end. Like many fathers and sons, there were agreements and disagreements between us, but in the end we would get along fine by never crossing the boundaries of respect and courtesy. And there always was a great deal of unspoken love.

What my father truly excelled at was his inveterate adherence to diligence and integrity when performing his duties. As a father he made certain that his children had every opportunity to follow their chosen paths and reach their career goals. On that we didn't fail him and I know he was proud of us. As a pediatrician he healed generations of infants and children, never allowing his dedication to be influenced by how much money a patient could pay. All children received the same care, regardless of their parents' financial status.

Of all the things what I miss most about him is his passion for the outdoors, especially mountains. As a lazy child I always tried to find excuses not to go on mountain excursions with him. He had an insatiable reverence for mountains and somewhere along the line I was fortunate enough to gain the same appreciation. As an adult I could never get enough of hiking with him on those rare occasions we were together. He certainly was in excellent physical shape until the end that would put many younger people to shame.

I took this picture of him on one of our hiking trips a number of years ago in the mountains north of Tehran.

There he is hiking swiftly and expectantly towards a green patch in the middle of the dry vastness. Perhaps he was searching for water or just wanted to rest under a tree shade for a while. Most likely it was his natural curiosity that was propelling him forward. Whatever the case I recall following him there and enjoying the little oasis for a while. If there is indeed life beyond death, I'd think this picture is a perfect representation of where my father is right now.

Thanks for everything Dad. Rest, and hike, in peace, Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Hashemian. (1931-2011)

Yahoo Earnings Check

by @ 8:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: ,

It seems like at some point I had signed up for Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) which was a program similar to Google's Adsense. Yahoo terminated the program recently and apparently they sent final checks (or is it cheques? Whatever) to all affiliates, active or not.

I just happened to find my Yahoo check in a pile of mail today and it was for a whopping $0.00. I wonder what my bank's reaction would be if I try to deposit it.

Since it has become customary for site owners to post pictures of their affiliate checks to prove their earnings, here's a picture of my Yahoo check. See, now you believe me? 🙂

yahoo publisher network check

Fantasy Home

by @ 9:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you are not familiar with New Canaan, Connecticut, it's an exclusive, plush town in Fairfield county where a million-dollar home is considered cheap. The movie, The Stepford Wives, was filmed there.

I work in a city adjacent to New Canaan and sometimes browse the listings to see what I can't afford. A couple of weeks ago I saw this listing (depicted below) for $20,000 that almost made me jump out of my seat and call the broker.

Good thing I didn't, because the house is only the size of a small room (160 square feet). But it does come with 99 bedrooms and 99 full bathrooms! I decided that it wasn't worth my time inquiring. obviously the house was made for mice. If only it came with 99 garages 🙂


What is best for ABN shareholders?

by @ 10:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The faith of the Dutch ABN Amro will be decided by its shareholders. They will decide between the offers of Barclays Bank of the UK and a consortium of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis, and Banco Santander Central Hispano.

Thing got more interested with a Dutch court decision of the $21 billion sale of LaSalle, ABN's U.S. business, to Bank of America as part of the merger ABN-Barclays agreement. The consortium of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis, and Banco Santander Central Hispano insists that
LaSalle remains as a part of ABN.

The shareholders vote will also determine the future of ABN Amro's management. Under the Barclays deal, current ABN executives will retain their jobs. It isn't clear though that such provisions are in place with the offer from the consortium.

The consortium's offer includes more cash and a higher price, but more uncertainty. The shareholders will eventually decide what is going to happen. It would be definitely interesting to see the result of the world's biggest merger (acquisition). Meanwhile, The Dutch Authority of
Financial Markets (AFM) ordered today that all information concerning the ABN Amro takeover has to be made public.

Politics of SQL Left Join and Right Join

by @ 7:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Politics of SQLThe other day I was helping a colleague with an SQL statement and I noticed he had a left join in his query. For those of you unfamiliar with SQL, it is a query language programmers use to access and manipulate data inside databases. Joins are used to cross-reference data between various database tables.

With the mid-term elections around the corner there is quite a bit of usage of words like right, left, liberal, and conservative around the nation, so seeing the left join in the query invoked thoughts of politics in my head. My colleague is a conservative, and I am firmly to the left of the center, but not quite off the cliff. We sometimes engage in political debates, and as all debates go have never convinced each other of the other person's persuasions.

Anyways, I scolded him for betraying his party by using a left join in his SQL statement. And then I thought to myself what a perfect way to resist the right-wing agenda.

So, no matter what your platform (as in your database platform), Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, DB2, Sybase, or even Access, on November 7th boycott right joins and only use left joins. Then vote Democrat. You can do it. Right joins are useless anyways while left joins are so much more intuitive. They just make more sense.

Yeah, let's write a petition to ANSI and all database vendors and demand an end to the right join absurdity. Together we can send right join to the ash heap of query history. Obsolescence and deprecation is the right join's destiny.

Hill Jogging

by @ 10:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hill Jogging
Jogging addicts have an interesting trait. Wherever they go, the first thing they usually search for is a location to jog. At least that's true about me. Actually it's a nuisance sometimes, much like smokers who run out of cigarettes when they travel and they need to search for a store that can hook them up with their next fix. On a recent business trip to San Diego, I had to use the treadmills in the hotel gym and it's not always easy to find a free one to jump on. I ended up asking the locals and they pointed me to a decent boardwalk by the water.

But one of the locations I've been wanting to try is the neighborhood where my daughter's ballet school is located. After nearly two years of driving her to the school in the next town over, I decided to give that area a try today. Before driving her to the school, I surfed on to Google Maps to get an idea of the nearby roads and discovered a perfect loop to run on. Next I jumped on one of my own pages on this site to get an idea about the distances involved. Doing some rough calculations, I arrived at a total distance of approximately 5 miles. Perfectly reasonable, given my time limit of about an hour. I memorized some of the road names and after dropping her off at the ballet school I was off and running.

Soon I realized a big miscalculation in my investigative method. Google Maps (and other online maps) is great for driving directions, but they are not topographical and that makes a big difference when you are operating on your own power. Serves me right for not paying closer attention to the road names. Just about every road had the word "hill" appended to it. Let's take a sample: Indian Hill Road, Pipers Hill Road, Teapot Hill Road, Mallory Hill Road, Dumplin Hill Road, and Nod Hill Road. At least there was one exception, Mountain Road!

I can’t remember the last time I ran on so many roads whose names ended in Hill. And hills there were, some covering long inclined stretches. To add more adventure to my course, I was lost a couple of times adding more distance to my already grueling course. There was no chance to slow to a walk and catch my breath. I had to be at the school on time and to make matters worse I had no track of time as I don't even have a watch.

Thankfully I eventually found the way and made it back to school with a few minutes left to spare. I was able to complete the course (later on, going back in the car, I clocked it at 7.5 miles) and I came out of it relatively unscathed, save a little leg muscle pain.

Lessons to learn: Don't assume the new area you have chosen to run in would be flat. There is considerable difference between running on a flat course and running on a hilly one. And, when you map out your new course, pay more attention to the road names and the directions to follow. Of course, knowing myself, I won't learn a thing from all this, other than having a new appreciation for the term "uphill battle".

Berkshire Hathaway Phantom Stock Split

by @ 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Common sense and investing wisdom dictates that an investor should look the long run and diversify. Many of us engage in wise investing through our retirement planning via 401K or IRA accounts that are generally contributed to and left alone to compound for years. The diversification portion is achieved, by default, through mutual funds.

There are however some stocks (not counting ETF's) that are relatively diversified by definition, because the underlying companies comprise businesses of various types. General Electric (GE) is one such company. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) is another, headed by the famed Warren Buffet. There is however one problem (at least for the average investor) buying shares in Berkshire Hathaway. Today's closing share price of that stock was $100,000. Now that's a tidy sum, putting the stock well beyond the affordability levels of many investors who would want to own a piece of this conglomerate.

Most companies faced with surging stock prices choose to partake in what is known as a stock split. As an example, a company whose stock price has reached $100 per share, might opt for a 2-for-1 stock split where each share turns into two with the share price at $50. It's a zero sum game. It has no effect on the market capitalization of the stock, and the shareholders see no difference in the values of their holdings at the moment the stock is split.

The general rationale behind a stock split is that it makes owning the shares more affordable and therefore it attracts more demand. In some cases it does work as intended and the stock sometimes surges upward post-split. The increased volume also comes with the side-effect of volatility. Berkshire Hathaway, however, has decided that it can do without the volatility. I suspect most investors in that stock are institutional holdings (such as companies and mutual funds) or very wealthy individuals. Today the traded volume for BRK was a measly 690 shares, with the low and high of $99,900 and $100,250 respectively. No doubt the difference between the bid and ask prices were in the tens of dollars and not pennies as most stocks typically experience.

Just to compare, GE's closing prices today was $35.53 with a trading volume of 26,087,600 shares. Accounting for all the GE stock splits over the years, the stock's effective split works out to 4608-for-1. If GE had never split, its share price would be $163,722.24 today and the traded volume would be about 5661 shares. Adjusting GE's stock price to that of BRK, the volume works out to about 9268 shares for GE or about 13.5 times the BRK's traded volume. Okay, I admit this is totally unscientific and a stock's traded volume is more affected by the condition of the company, forecasts, analysis, and the mood of the investors, among other factors, than its price per share. But if we were to accept this piece of information as valid for the moment, the conclusion would be that splits do indeed create more interest in a stock. Now we'll just wait for Warren to declare a 10,000-for-1 split. Sure, I might buy a few Berkshire shares at $10 a piece.

Cell Phones and Seat Belts

by @ 9:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Who says jogging is a safe exercise? For those of us who like to run outside it's anything but. I can't count how many times I've been chased by dogs, slipped on black ice, tripped over a branch (and one time on a snake), or have had close calls with cars. Tonight's episode involved an SUV driven by a woman chatting away on her cell phone. As I approached a bank's driveway, I noticed the SUV approach, trying to make a right turn. She stopped at the edge of the driveway, looked right and looked left. It was dark, but the street was well lit and I thought for sure she'd seen me in my white T-shirt approaching. I generally avoid cars that are about to make turns by going behind them, but I was sure she'd seen me; more like she saw through me. As I confidently stepped in front of the SUV, she gunned the car and at the last moment made a frantic stop. She'd finally seen me, but only after I had collided with her giant car. Thankfully it wasn't a big impact, but it must've rattled her. That's when I noticed her right hand holding the cell phone up to her ear. I'm not much into confrontation, specially when I have to conserve my energy for jogging. I decided to turn back and circle the car and we both went about our ways. I lived to collide with another car on another day.

There are good laws and then there the bad ones. We've had a no-cell-phone-while-driving law in Connecticut for a few months now. It's a good law, but from what I have observed little is being done to enforce it. It's a good law because it protects people from those who get too distracted to notice their surroundings while chattering on their cell phones or fumbling for a number to dial. Instead the state has decided to put more effort into enforcing the seat belt law, something that I consider a bad law, actually a stupid law. Who is being protected by the seat belt law other than the driver or the passenger sitting up front?

I am not anti seat belt, but people should have the freedom to decide whether or not to buckle up. I don't wear a seat belt most of the time. You are free to label me foolish, but I am not jeopardizing anyone else's safety. You could argue that if I were to have an accident, there is a cost to society in terms of higher insurance premiums, higher hospital bills, or wasted police time. Fair enough, but that argument could be applied to any activity. We'd have to ban skiing because a percentage of people are injured every year and require assistance. Why not ban sky diving, riding motorcycles, swimming, or even marathons while we're at it? That could save on money and resources that go into rescuing and treating those who are injured while participating in a variety of activities. Let's also ban butter, ice cream, and burgers too. Having sex would also make a good candidate, specially for those with advance age. Clearly there has to be a rational line where individual freedom should trump possible cost to all.

Banning cell phone usage, while driving, is rational. Instead, the public is subjected to countless ads designed to scare them into wearing their seat belts or face fines; the so-called "Click it, or ticket" campaign. Thankfully I don't even own a cell phone, so no problem obeying the cell phone usage ban. But if I were inclined to break a law, I'd be wise to get a cell phone, wear my seat belt and yak away while driving. I'd be safe the whole time while putting others at risk, and little chance I'd get a ticket for it.

Google, YouTube fear factor

by @ 8:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hard to imagine that a 2-year old company started from scratch could be worth $1.65 billion, but that’s what YouTube is worth to Google. I had never visited YouTube’s site until about a month ago and that was just to see how it compares with Google video. I like Google video because of the simple interface, but it hasn’t been without technical glitches such as congestion and outages. I’m not sure how YouTube’s reliability has been, but I suppose that’s immaterial at this point. It will be one of Google’s products anyways.

This deal has certainly kept the analysts and pundits buzzing. USA Today had a couple of articles about the changing landscape of the online industry. One interesting observation was how fast some of the new startups reach lofty levels these days. I agree, but only cautiously. Sure we’ve had MySpace, YouTube, and now there’s talk of Yahoo going or FaceBook, but I view these as anomalies; jackpots for the lucky few who saw traffic rise to unimaginable levels on their sites.

At this point the Web titans are nervous about being upstaged by younger rivals encroaching on their secondary territories. Google is probably not too worried about a newcomer offering fancy Web searches, but a video site is a different matter. There’s also the fear of rivals snapping up the promising companies, and the helps to feed the buy-up frenzy,

Okay we knew all that, but one wonders if YouTube will ever earn its keep. Did Google give its own video service enough time to blossom, or have their abandoned their patient ways that got them to where they are now? Google wasn’t always the most popular destination for Web search. But having a good product with enough differentiation, a constant drive for perfection, and patience paid off in the long run. Maybe Google could have applied some of the same principles to Google video without having to spend the big chunk on YouTube. But I suppose once you get that big, the fear of losing the number one spot forces you into making frenzied, and sometimes not too wise, decisions.

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