Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sad Day in Pootie Tang Nation

Update: Pootie Tang wins the season's high points by +11 over Wrath Man. Measuring the total payout like we measure the performance of one of our private equity funds would be as follows:

[Season High Points Payout + 4 weekly high points + $25 for making playoffs]:

2.35x multiple upfront capital call
IRR = 60.8% for 15 week season...not bad

Lost the semi-final game this past weekend in my fantasy football league, in a matchup that on paper was a done deal. That's why they play the games. Pittsburg D let me down big time, and Carson Palmer has been a dog as of late. Fat Catz took some mad money out of my pocket. However, to the victor go the spoils, so my congrats, el chubby kitty. (Click to enlarge.)

I have Westbrook who has been an absolute stud this year, and had no problem with him sliding at the 1, cause it's the right thing to do. You do anything to beat the Cowboys. It's an unwritten rule as an Eagle. The 6 points wouldn't have mattered in the end, but I do admit, my head was exploding at the time.

So I am still in the running for the High Points this year by 41 pts, which will be a nice payout if I can hold on. My team was basically left for dead after week 8, but went on a 6 win tear. So I was due... but as you can see, I had the highest points against (PA), so this has been a tough, gut-it-out season. (Click to enlarge, week 14 prior to this week's loss.)

Today is the first time I've been able to look at anything related to football after watching Chester Taylor do nothing against the Bears monday night.
Sorry this looks like I slapped this post together, because, well, I did. It's still too painful to look at the score.

Till next year...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Too Funny

I always knew Cookie Monster had a problem.

Hilarious, you know the people that came up with the muppets and Sesame Street were high as kites 24-7.

Verizon, Comcast and DishTV -- WTF!?!?

Just when you think you've seen it all...for all of you marketing folks out there, I think this by far is the best thing I've seen yet.

Comcast and Verizon are locked in a fierce battle to add subscribers, with Comcast being the established leader. However, Verizon's new Fiber Optic (FiOS) offering is clearly taking market share away from them. In fact, most of the fund managers I meet with at work have been hurt in 2007 by holding Comcast but have realized upside as Verizon continues to get more customers to switch from Comcast.

Remember the promise of all that fiber optic cable that the providers laid in the 90s? The Juniper Networks and JDS Uniphases of the world that were supposedly worth more than GE and drove the internet-bubble to dizzying heights with their killer-apps and fiber-optic that would render copper obsolete? Well it only took 10 years for all that infrastructure to get "utilized". We actually swtiched to FiOS and it is far and away better than Comcast. Comcast sucks, and competition is good, because without it, Comcast would continue to raise prices without as much of a peep from it's captive base.

I get it, Verizon and Comcast...but there is always a third competitor in any market, as Ghadar and his "Herfindahl Index" proved. DishTV is clearly the third game in town, with their niche being the sports package offerings where you can get your sports team games instead of having to watch the Giants or Yankees all the time. But the trade off is you every time it rains, no signal, and you basically have a sail mounted to your house.

So how is DishTV taking all of this competition, you ask?? Well, they certainly aren't taking this lying down. I was making eggs this morning, and noticed something on the egg itself. I kid you not, have a look at the picture below (Click to Enlarge):

WTF? This is brilliant, as is the marketing team that convinced an exec at DishTV to stamp a "1-800" number on eggs. Can't you just see the pitch:

"Here's our idea, it's called "Project Easter Egg." We stamp our 1-800 number on eggs. People eat eggs, it's the #1 breakfast food. Here is a pie chart that McKinsey put together showing the 5 year market growth estimates for egg consumption by U.S. Region. As you can see, the NY metropolitan area is growing by 25%, so we should stamp this info on eggs. If the take rate is 1%, and 1% of the take translates into a new customer, our subscriber base and revenue generated could be $MM. And not to mention that it's low cost way, so our Revenue per marketing $ goes up."

The only thing crazier than the pitch is the fact that the exec bought into it. I can just see the follow-on studies to understand the effectiveness of "stamping eggs with 1-800 numbers."

It's brilliant, but does nothing to make me want DishTV. Just thought I'd share, because it goes to show that people will do anything to get the word out. God bless the idiot that actually picks up the phone.

By the way, the egg was delicious. It's in the trash.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ass of the Week

is Bobby Petrino...what a coward. Wow, your season didn't turn out the way you thought, and when the going got tough, you ran away like a little baby. Get over it, life ain't perfect.

I don't even like the Falcons, but here's an organization that is imploding, and this guy writes a letter to tell his team that he is quitting on them. At least wait till the end of the season to sign with the Razorbacks, not the same night you quit. Whatever happened to honoring your contract? He and Nick Saban probably whine to each other every time something doesn't go their way or they don't get what it is they want.

Oh well, some people are leaders, some just think they are. Anyone can lead when times are good. The true test is how you handle things when they are tough.

Link to SI Article and Photo:

Mitchell Report Due Out at 2:00 PM Today

UPDATED -- Link to Report, with Names and Signed Checks by Players at End:

Can't wait to see this thing. I don't think anyone should be surprised by this, but it will be nice to see the names. Certainly takes the pressure off Bonds though, because if you put an asterisk by his record, how about Clemens' Cy Young? It wasn't just the hitters doing the cream and the clear.

This all makes perfect sense though, remember, the commissioner's office is just as culpable. They knew they had a problem, but after the players strike in 1994 (the last time I remember caring about baseball) the league knew its fan base was disgusted and didn't want to come back to the parks. So the league office looks the other way, especially when "slammin' Sammy" and McGwire have their little home run chase in 1998.

Why would you want to waste your money going to see something that is fake? It's no different than betting on a game that's fixed. The simple solution is for the Players Association to agree to fair testing. If you can test for it, and there are repercussions to your actions, then people won't do it. Christ, they do it in the Tour de France, what's the difference? The difference is there's too much money at stake. It's a business, not a game.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What to Do When You Get Hit by a Car Around the Holidays

I had a very surreal experience this morning that I feel compelled to share. I got hit by a car walking to the bus stop this morning in NJ. No joke. I was crossing the street and some woman never slowed down to make her left, and next thing I knew, i was on the hood and then on the ground after hearing the thud. So after yelling at this person for quite some time ("i believe I set the record for f-bombs before 6:45AM") and getting this person's license plates, phone number and name, i grabbed my blackberry and man purse that were strewn in the street and went on my way to catch the bus. No broken bones thank god, just some severe road rash on the arms and fleshy areas.

In hindsight, i guess someone was looking out for me, or it wasn't my time today. In a weird, surreal way, I remember thinking on the subway this morning that I felt like a stuntman on a high that can bounce off cars and survive (yes I went to work, Erin and my coworkers think i'm crazy). There is an awesome comic named Dane Cook who has this bit about seeing someone get hit by a car. His bit is pretty much what it was like...

If you ever have the chance to bounce off a car going 35, try it. It will definitely make you appreciate life and get you out of your "Groundhog day" doldrums.

All kidding aside, I know it's a cliche, but i look at this as another reminder during the holidays that life is short and too precious. Remember to keep in perspective what's important, and be able to recognize those in your life who mean something and are there to help you, and those who are fake and not true family or friends. Too often, we take for granted the fact that we will always see each other at the end of every day.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Google is Amazing..."So what is it again you did in grad school?"

The other day, Erin asked me "So what is it you did again in grad school?" To be honest, it was hard for me to remember too. So I started poking around Google's site. They have quite a few "focused" search engines, one being called the "Scholar" search engine. I typed in my name to see if I could find my paper so I could explain what it was I did, cause it's hard to remember...sure enough, I found my paper.

Paper on Crystal Structure of Human Telomere DNA

Reading this paper brought back a lot of memories, and really made me appreciate completing that paper for reasons I will never be able to fully describe. But if you will allow an old man to share his memories with you, I would like tell you why an "ACCCT Telomeric DNA repeat is potentially important" based on what I learned at WSU (Go Cougs!).

When I entered Washington State's Ph.D. program for Biochemistry, I started my thesis work with Dr. Kang in his x-ray cystallography lab. In a nutshell, x-ray crystallography is a scientific method, whereby you shoot high-energy x-rays through a crystal of biological material (DNA, RNA, protein, etc.) It's no different than sitting in the dentist chair and getting your teeth x-rayed, for lack of a better analogy. After shooting the x-ray energy at the crystal, an x-ray diffraction pattern is produced. The most famous diffraction pattern is Watson-Crick/Rosalind Franklin's DNA diffraction pattern, which allowed them to later determine the structure of DNA as an alpha helix. (It wasn't the guys, it was a really smart woman who determined the structure of DNA...funny how they don't tell you that in school.)

The diffraction pattern that is generated represents an electron density map that you then used computer algorithms to solve the structure of the biological entity (DNA, etc) you are analyzing. The promise is that if you can determine the structure of a biological molecule, you may be able to design a drug that can interact with the target to effect a function (think "enzyme is involved in cancer progression --> this bad enzyme's structure or active site has a hole shaped like a triangle, lets design a bunch of drugs shaped like a triangle and see if it blocks the bad enzyme --> maybe this will slow down progression of disease because blocking site will make enzyme inactive").

So we purified a solution of the DNA repeating unit "ACCCT" which is present in all human chromosomal DNA. In fact, this particular repeat is present in the telomeres of human chromosomes. Telomeres are the tips or ends of chromosomes (see cartoon below). These telomeres are important because telomeres shorten during DNA replication, which occurs when a cell divides. At some point, the telomeres become too short, and the cell can no longer divide. At that point, a cell dies.

Guess what cells have telomeres that, for some reason, don't shorten??? Here's a hint, what cells are immortal, and characterized by uncontrolled growth??

Cancer cells.

So the thought is if you can understand the structure of telomeres, or the enzyme that keeps repairing and lengthening telomeres everytime DNA replicates, then you can design a drug that prevents this enzyme from working. Cancer cells die, and that's a good thing.

I'm oversimplifying things, because there are a lot of really smart people who are working on this therapeutic approach to treating cancer. The takeaway from solving the structure of ACCCT is that people think of DNA as a static molecule, but in fact, as the structure of ACCCT shows, unorthodox, but energetically favorable binding can occur between DNA base pairs. This higher order binding creates a "supersecondary" structure to DNA that perhaps stabilizes telomeric end units in chromosomes. Perhaps the enzyme that interacts with telomeres recognizes this supersecondary structure, or perhaps this non-traditional structure protects the ends from degradation and shortening. Only time will tell.

This was probably one of the most intellectually stimulating things I have ever been fortunate to do. Makes the portfolio asset allocation models we run at work seem a bit boring...

Cartoon Diagram of Telomeres

Link to NYTimes Interview with Grandmother of Telomere Biology Field:

Picture of a crystal, seen from under a microscope. To prepare the crystal for xray, you stand in a cold room, and use a 0.5mm glass capillary tube to grab one of these suckers and then stick on the x-ray machine.

Example of a diffraction pattern produced after shooting x-ray energy through a biological molecule...This particular diffraction pattern is the famous DNA pattern that Rosalind Franklin generated from DNA. Watson and Crick then used it to subsequently become famous...pretty unfair if you ask me.

Example of an electron denisty map around the carbon backbone of a molecule. It's a stereogram, so if you stare at it long enough, you'll see it in 3-D. (Like the popular "Magic Eye" posters, sans dolphin or dinosaur...) For ACCCT, I sat in front of a computer monitor with 3-D goggles to fit the structure to the density map my cystal generated.