Monday, September 08, 2008

Unemployment: Democrat VS Republican Presidents

Last Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a statement claiming that the unemployment rate in the US had jumped from 5.7% to 6.1% in August (here). That means that there are roughly 7.6 million people unemployed in the US today. That is a large number of people looking for a job and will likely play a big roll in the next few weeks as Obama and McCain try to persuade people that their economic policy will be the most beneficial to the american people. So I decided to see what the trends of unemployment under Democratic or Republican presidents have been, and, not surprisingly, it appears that the democrats have outdone the republicans.

Below is a chart depicting the yearly data collected by the BLS since 1947 when the legal working age became 16. The date of each president's final term along with their party affiliation is labeled. On top of the raw data chart is a sloppy trend line graph that I added to show the increases or decreases of unemployment during the entire incumbency of the president. For the trend graph the lines that are blue represent a democratic president and the red lines represent the republican presidents. Click on the image to enlarge it.

It is fairly obvious to see that under nearly all of the democrat president's administrations unemployment has gone down, and vice versa for the republican's. I was, however, surprised that even one of the republican administrations, Ronald Regan's, was able to lower the unemployment rate and he was fairly successful at it. I was also surprised that the only democrat that showed an increase in unemployment was John F. Kennedy, though the increase was marginal and Lyndon Johnson continued J.F.K's policies and he did exceptionally well. The actual numbers for each year can be found here.

Furthermore, I averaged the rate of change in unemployment per year for each president and came up with these numbers:

PresidentAvg. % Rate Change Per Year
Truman (D)-0.15
Eisenhower (R)0.357
Kenedy (D)0.066
Johnson (D)-0.42
Nixon (R)0.333
Ford (R)0.933
Carter (D)-0.15
Regan (R)-0.2
Bush I (R)0.5
Clinton (D)-0.438
Bush II (R)0.263

Averaging all the democrat and republican presidents' percent change per year and we see exactly which party tends to create more jobs, ie the party with a negative change per year in unemployment.

Democrat Avg.Republican Avg.

The next question I asked myself is what policy did each of these presidents decide to follow? I quickly came to an answer by reading through Wikipedia (which I understand is probably not the best source of information but I am too lazy to go looking for any real documentation). The Republicans seem to rely on a model of economic policy called Supply-Side Economics which tends to benefit the producers, ies corporations and the rich, in an attempt to increase the amount of goods and services produced. The Democrats, on the other hand, tend to follow the model of economic policy termed New Keynesian Economics, which changes in response to economic downturns by investing in more infrastructure and cutting taxes to create more jobs and give more money to the less wealthy, which will hopefully create more demand for products and services.

While I have not analyzed which model of economic policy works best for the general economy of the US, I believe it is safe to say that under democrat presidents unemployment tends to decrease, and that is probably due to New Keynesian economic policies, and conversely under republican presidents the number of unemployed tends to increase (especially under George W. Bush's policies), which is most likely due to the failings of Supply-Side Economics in providing new jobs.

Of course, and as obligatory adjunct, there is a lot of variables I did not consider that are very likely heavily involved in creating jobs in the US that aren't even related to the presidency or an economic model. However, I think it is compelling data and shouldn't be taken too lightly when considering what president you plan to vote for in November, especially if you are going to be looking for a job anytime soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What do I want out of life?

Before I die I would like to have accomplished these things:

-Find someone I love to marry me (maybe have kids but that's more for my mom I think).
-Earn enough money to have a house with a nice pool in the back yard.
-Have a cabin in California (maybe the Stone Ranch).
-Live by the ocean.
-Be able to work my own hours.
-Contribute something to the world that I am proud of.

That's it.

What do you want?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fear Contest

Bruce Schneier has posted his third annual movie-plot threat contest. The rules: 150 words (basically an extended log line) and this:
For this contest, the goal is to create fear. Not just any fear, but a fear that you can alleviate through the sale of your new product idea. There are lots of risks out there, some of them serious, some of them so unlikely that we shouldn't worry about them, and some of them completely made up. And there are lots of products out there that provide security against those risks.

Your job is to invent one. First, find a risk or create one. It can be a terrorism risk, a criminal risk, a natural-disaster risk, a common household risk -- whatever. The weirder the better. Then, create a product that everyone simply has to buy to protect him- or herself from that risk. And finally, write a catalog ad for that product.

OK, I love this kind of stuff so here is my attempt, but before I post it to his blog I'd like some feed back from anyone out there so tell me what you think of the following ad:
Are you worried about turning into a human-plant mutant because of all the genetic modifications being made to our wholesome crops these days?

You need the Clean-A-Gene!

Increasingly common, especially in the United States, genetically modified foods are being grown for their "added nutrients", "extra strength", and durability for packaging. All these genetic modifications however are mixing in with the human gene pool. It isn't noticeable at first but after several generations of plant DNA recombination with humans some of our babies will have broccoli for arms and corn cobs for feet! The Clean-A-Gene is a patented food purifier that removes all DNA from genetically modified plants*. How can you or your family live without a Clean-A-Gene purifier?! It's the responsible thing to buy.

*This product is not approved by the FDA, and has not been shown to work in any laboratory settings.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Business Plan, Part 1

I have been discussing the future of my life a lot with my friends as of late and we have been working on a business plan for the next few years. The following are my ideas for how our business will materialize.

The idea for our business:

A biotech/pharmaceutical company that will develop two types of drugs and will work on gene-therapies. The first, and foremost priority, will be the profitable drugs that work on human aesthetics and anti-aging, such as hair loss drugs, wrinkle creams, etc. Through my years of research, and particularly my work in Seattle with skin diseases and wound healing I have worked out the molecular mechanisms that I believe are highly important in management of aging skin. A lot of those molecular signals in the skin and hair do not have drugs that have been created yet to mediate the effects and those drugs will be worth multi-billions of dollars. Developing these drugs by first determining the structure of the important molecules by utilizing biophysical techniques such as x-ray spectroscopy and 3D-NMR will be my goal in the next several years of my PhD program.

The second set of of drugs will be cancer drugs. I have been very closely working with stem cells and cancer for the last few years here in Boston and have come to a few conclusions as to where the future of cancer technology is going and I plan to exploit this knowledge for use in drug therapies. The cancer line of work will help in getting initial funding for the start-up through governmental grants.

So that is the basic idea of what we will be doing but how are we going to get it going? Well, luckily, I have a head start on that as well. First of all the company will be co-founded by Ian and myself. Ian will be spending the next two years or so getting his MBA from Yale, MIT, or Duke. During that time he plans on acquiring the connections to get a lot of start-up funding through venture capitalists as well as the skills to manage a business such as this (and a lot of international business skills, which he is personally interested in, which can only be beneficial for us).

The next advantage we have is my father who has been working in the biotech industry and has a lot of connections with many companies, particularly on the west coast and has expressed interest in working with me to develop this company.

Ian's brother is a patent lawyer and will be extremely helpful in helping us patent our drugs and techniques (even if he doesn't want to be our lawyer he will certainly help his brother out in whatever ways he can).

And lastly, but definitely not least, our friend Seth has shown an interest in being our political lobbyist on the Hill in DC. He could potentially help get us pushed up on the list of FDA reviews and make our name more visible to grant agencies like NIH and NSF.

An ideal time line for getting the business going:

-In two years Ian will get his MBA, we will begin filing for business licenses and searching for venture capital.
-In four years (or so) I will get my PhD and hopefully have solved the structure of several important molecules in our body for which we will continue researching and developing drugs.
-Five years we will have our own lab space with the initial grant money and whatever capital we can muster.
-Ten years, our first drug will have passed clinical trials and be on course for FDA approval, we will have several other patents as well. The value of the company will start appreciating.
-15 years, we will sell the company for $800 million, at least.

Please help me along in this endeavor, if you have any suggestions or comments or would like to be apart of the whole start-up process then let me know.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not Meant to Offend

After our discussion about how the Micheal Crichton Anti-Global Warming book (which I didn't even mention in the post!) and how I think people are getting influenced by incorrect data I decided to post about the Climate Securities Act after my friend Seth suggested it to me to write about. However, it seems I have offended a good friend (sorry S, I didn't mean to discount your ideas) and I thought I would say that I welcome all opinions and mine is definitely not the only one out there and most likely very biased (that's why I write a blog and not in a respected journal). I'm sure Micheal Crichton has some good points in his book that I should look at more closely and examine. I would just like to point out though that nearly all scientific data published, and basically all data published in Nature and Science, the two most respected scientific journals on earth, is cautioning about the imminent warming due to greenhouse gases. This should not be taken too lightly. Even a 1°C increase in average temperature will cause agricultural shifts that will cause real problems.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Legislation...Is Good?!

Who would have guessed that Joe Lieberman would have done something good? I've kind of always thought of him as jack-ass because of his stance on the Iraq war, but he might be redeeming himself a little with the latest bit of legislation that has been submitted to the senate called the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. (Thanks Seth for pointing me to this.)

It is surprising that the President hasn't openly stated that he will veto this also, though maybe it's because conservative-independent Lieberman and republican Warner are the main sponsors of the bill. Probably. For whatever reason, if it passes it will be a very good step forward for the future of our little blue gem.

Before addressing what this bill proposes I thought I would take a few paragraphs to go over why it is important that such a bill be introduced now. The issue of global warming still continues to be prevalent in mainstream media mostly because it is still hotly debated as to whether or not it is really even happening--and as we know the media loves controversy (if not the truth). Well, as it turns out there is basically no doubt what-so-ever that global warming, and hence climate change, is occurring and it is caused by greenhouse gases that have been released by humans. The controversy arises from conservative media outlets (FOX, Wall Street Journal, etc.) that take hold of any news story they can find that puts any doubt as to the final outcome of global warming and spin that story to acquire a new meaning: that it may not even be happening! For instance, Media Matters calls out FOX News. Of course more liberal media outlets can tend to exagerate the problem as well, but in actuality the more information that pours in regarding greenhouse gas emissions and their effects on global warming the more extreme the models get. Quoted from Joe Lieberman (a supporter of big-oil subsidies and who received oil lobbyists' money and therefore making this quote that much more realistic):
"With all the irrefutable evidence we now have corroborating that climate change is real, dangerous, and proceeding faster than many scientists predicted, this is the year for Congress to move this critical legislation. If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren. Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation."
I would also add that because of CO2 levels currently in our air we are already seeing the acidification of the oceans causing more and more dead-zones to form because of oxygen deprived plumes of ocean stretching hundreds of miles in which most life can not survive. These dead zones are also caused by other types of pollution as well such as sewage and fertilizer run-off, all of which should be looked at as well. The acidification of the oceans also causes coral bleaching, and numerous other negative effects that most people do not think of when talking about global warming.

There is no controversy amongst atmospheric and meteorological scientists across the globe that global warming is indeed a very big problem. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a group created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization to asses the scientific basis of global warming, the effects it may have on the world, and the policies that governments can implement to mitigate the negative effects. Each of those areas of assessment was assigned a work group, i.e. work Group I, II, and III, respectively. The latest results have come back recently from the final Work Group III and and even though the summary of results have been considered to be very conservative by the actual scientists the conducted the research, it is still scary what can happen in the next century or two as concluded by the study that surveyed something on the order of 19,000 different climate research projects funded by the government in nearly every industrialized country on earth.

So what does the Lieberman and Warner act entail? Here is a quick run down (summarized mostly from here):
-Instant capping of CO2 emissions.
-Put a cap on CO2 emissions at the 2005 level by 2012.
-Further reductions of 1.8% per year after 2012 resulting in 15% reduction of 2005 levels by 2020.
-Continued reduction in CO2 emissions until 2050 resulting in 70% reduction of CO2 emissions compared with 2005 levels.
-Up to 80% reduction of major sources of CO2 emission.
-Implements trading of CO2 credits.
-$500 billion investment for low- and zero-carbon emitting fuels.
-$350 billion in assistance for low- and middle-income families for heating, transporation, etc. until 2030.

All of these plans are very appropriate steps in reducing greenhouse gas levels, stimulating the economy of alternative and low-carbon-emitting fuels, and helping those that have the potential to be most effected by the rise in costs of conventional fuels. Congrats to Lieberman and Warner for doing a good job, now let's just see the rest of the senate pass this!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Buddhism and the Great Outdoors

I have been reading the book The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and have become absorbed in the philosophy of Buddhism. For years now whenever I am asked what religion I am by a person who is very religious and I don't feel comfortable saying "atheist" to them I will tell them I am Buddhist. It's not a lie either. I believe in the philosophy of the Buddhist traditions and their road to enlightenment even though I hardly ever meditate and I sometimes get over involved in materialistic ideas.

Buddhism is not a religion, however. Religion is defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods." In Buddhism there is no worship of a God but instead it is the practicing of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as Buddha. There are four basic principles that underlie the Buddhist philosophy that are called the Four Noble Truths. Though, there really is only one basic underlying theme of Buddhism and that is finding truth, or put differently: understanding reality.

The First Truth: There is suffering in life.
My life has been wrought with suffering, though that is of course relative, i.e. compared to billions of other people on earth I have lived quite nicely and my suffering would be laughed at by many as inconsequential. But again, suffering is relative and everyone suffers in life. The first truth is so self-evident that it almost does not need to be mentioned if not for the the second, third, and fourth Truths.

The Second Truth: The cause of suffering is craving.
If you did not crave that cool toy you saw on TV as a kid then you would not be upset if your mother told you that you couldn't have it. Likewise, all negative emotional feelings are driven by craving as well; break-ups being a prime example. When one person leaves another but the other person craves to be with them still it causes an intense amount of personal and emotional suffering. There is good news however:

The Third Truth: Suffering can end.
We get over our problems eventually though some problems take longer than others and sometimes a new problem arises that diminishes the extent of suffering from previous problems. There can be a state of no suffering as well, this is called nirvana, and it is to be strived for.

The Fourth Truth There is a path that can be followed that leads to the cessation of suffering, nirvana.
The path is called the Noble Eightfold Path and I will talk about it in a second. This Fourth Truth and the Eightfold Path is the essence of Buddhism.

Really quickly, from Wikipedia, the Noble Eightfold Path:
1. Right Speech—One speaks in a non hurtful, not exaggerated, truthful way.
2. Right Actions—Wholesome action, avoiding action that would do harm.
3. Right Livelihood—One's way of livelihood does not harm in any way oneself or others; directly or indirectly.
4. Right Effort/Exercise—One makes an effort to improve.
5. Right Mindfulness/Awareness—Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness.
6. Right Concentration/Meditation—Being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion.
7. Right Understanding—Understanding reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
8. Right Thoughts—Change in the pattern of thinking.

It all seems very self-evident. And in fact it is. But when is the last time you focused really hard on making sure you were really following these guide lines? Not many people do, I know I am constantly forgetting to watch myself and do the right thing. If you follow these eight rules then you will achieve nirvana. Of course you have to follow them all the time and that can be a little difficult (we are only human after all). does this relate to the great outdoors as I put in the title of this post? Well, back to the Dharma Bums novel I am reading, Jack Kerouac writes very descriptively about nature and the wilderness in the mountains of Northern California and I have decided to follow in his footsteps. Soon I will be starting grad school (to study biochemistry--one of the best ways to understand reality and the ultimate Buddhist career) but before that I will be taking some time to travel and relax. One of the ideas that I have been talking about with a friend of mine is to go on a long hike. To get back to nature. To meditate by living in the absolute silence of the woods. What better place to do that than in Yosemite National Park? It also happens to be fairly close to where my family lives so I can see them again as well. While I am out there I can clear my mind of the cluster-fuck of bad thoughts that have recently been gracing my usually tranquil mind. I can work on bettering myself and be far enough from distractions that I won't have to focus too hard on most of the Noble Eight paths. Hopefully, and I believe likely, I will reach a state of nirvana. I've experienced this before by hiking 56 miles through the mountains of New Mexico, 36 miles around Mt. Rainier, and a beautiful 30 mile beach hike along the Pacific Ocean of Washington State. Many other hikes and camping spots have brought me much pleasure as well but I think it takes a few days of exhausting hiking and observation of nature to really learn to respect it and understand it.

The greatest patience is humility. -Atisha

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lessons on Stocks and the Economy: My Experience

Back in June of '07 I decided to play in he stock market. I had no idea of what I was doing, all I knew is that I wanted to make a lot of money. As you might guess, the market doesn't always do exactly what you would hope and since I bought in the market has crashed. Some of my stocks have rallied recently to he point where I am breaking even again with them but the others are still looking pretty bad. The following is my experience and the lessons I have learned in the world of stocks and the economy.

First and foremost I wanted a stock that would earn me a lot of money. I didn't have a lot of money to begin with so I was looking for a cheap stock that had potential to grow a lot. I started reading about small-cap businesses and what analysts were saying about them. I read one article on that talked positively about a company called Gigabeam that makes high bandwidth wireless transceivers that are supposedly poised to disrupt the market for land-lines used for cable-internet. Since I believe that wireless internet, via WiMax and the advent of the iPhone and more portable wireless devices, is the future of computer technology this stock looked good so I bought some shares at $4.

Within two days the stock price jumped up over 40% and then the next day it was up over 50%. I was making a good amount of money and only three days had passed. Why not hold onto the stock for another few months and make 1000% profit, right? Not so. Now, less than a year later, the company is delisted from the NASDAQ and I had to sell it at $2 loss per share. The lesson from this is don't get greedy. If the price reaches a point that you are making reasonable money--sell. You can always reinvest the money again if you have reason to believe it will go up a lot.

The next two stocks I bought were based on instinct: Apple and Intel. I just really like these companies and as I already mentioned I thought the iPhone was going to be iconic (and I was right). I bought Apple at $132 and Intel at $24. Both went up and up. Apple hit over $200 and Intel was up over $30. It seemed my instincts were paying off. Did I sell? No. And in this case I'm not unhappy about that either. I still believe that Apple will reach $225 in 2009, and Intel is ruling the market and should bounce back. Currently though Apple is at $130 and Intel is down to $21. These stocks fluctuate with the market though and will grow rapidly once we start seeing the economy grow, I hope.

The last stock that I bought I tried using some statistical analysis to pick a good one. Using online software to sift through all the companies I came up with a filter for what companies I wanted to invest in. The basic structure of the filter was a mid-cap company, on the NASDAQ, in the healthcare sector (because I know a lot about science I figured I could determine the strength of a healthcare company), share price less than $10, profit margin above industry standard, low P/E ratio, earnings per share growth of around 20%, high volume of trading, and a lot of analyst coverage. Also, I didn't really care about dividends.

Using that filter I came upon OraSure. OraSure has created a fast and reliable HIV test that can use blood samples as well as saliva. They recently hired someone to their board of directors that is very capable of getting a product through the FDA for over-the-counter sales (the HIV rapid test is already used in hospitals and clinics but has not yet been given the ok for OTC use). The price I bought at was $8 and it is now down around $7. The market is weak but the company is strong so I figure it will bounce back soon. I will also make the prediction that once they are given the approval to sell their HIV test OTC the share price will jump up to around $12 to $13 or more. This is a good stock and I am very happy with it so far even though I am currently losing money on it. In the future I will definitely use a similar filter strategy for picking stocks.

I'm glad I went through this little experiment in stocks because I believe I have learned an enormous amount about how the market works (well it's really simple actually: fear drives the market down, speculation drives it up).

More to come soon from me regarding how I think individual stocks move and where the economy is headed regarding the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and the dropping value of the dollar and the correlated increase in oil prices. For now I would just like any comments on my stock decisions. Anyone out there?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama WINS Texas!!!

Okay so you probably heard that Hillary Clinton won in Texas, and by popular vote she did. However, the popular vote is meaningless in the US except to get press coverage. What is most important are the delegates, or the electorate college, and in Texas Barack Obama has 89 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 84. That is a win for Obama! Why the media is playing this off as a Clinton win I do not know. Where Obama really shines is in the caucuses, where he got 28 delegates to Clinton's 19. Even though Clinton beat him in the primaries 65 delegates to 61, the addition of the caucus delegates shows that Obama is actually the winner.

Outlandish prediction: Obama gets his name on the ticket. Obama chooses Joe Biden as vice president, Jim Webb is a second pick if Biden won't run. Obama beats McCain by eight points.

Thoughts? Different predictions?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Guitar Hero Comic

I was bored at lunch and had a sketch pad. And that's what I came up with. Yes, I know guitars have 6 strings and Guitar Hero uses five spots, whatever, I ran out of space. Click on it for a larger version.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grad School - Biochemistry/Biophysics

I have officially been accepted at Tufts University and UMass Med. School to their umbrella biology PhD programs! Both are great schools and I am having a hard time figuring out which school will be best for my career in the future. I will also be interviewing at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Brandeis University very shortly, where I expect to get accepted to both. So my question to anyone that may accidentally wander by (or anyone that may actually purposely check this site...yeah right!) is which school is the best?

There are many factors to contemplate when picking the school of choice so I will outline what I am personally looking for:

1. Strong biophysics and structural biology departments and researchers.
2. Good core facilities such as NMR and X-ray crystallography (though most crystallography goes to the particle accelerators now).
3. Good selection of classes.
4. Diversity of research to rotate through.
5. Fun area to live.

That's about it, but that is more than enough variables to make the decision very difficult. Please help me decide!

Progression of my Procrastination

My thought process as I try to prepare for grad school interviews online:

1. "OK, I'll read this article about integral membrane protein crystallization and x-ray structure determination."

2. "I wish I was reading about how close we are to finding alien life on another planet."

3. "Well as it turns out we are very far from finding life on another planet...that's depressing."

4. "Maybe some caffeine will help get me on track. And a little snack."

5. "I'll just watch a little TV while I eat."

6. "Wow, that woman is incredibly hot, I have to see the rest of this show."

7. "I should check out Google images for more pictures of that model."

8. "Maybe I'll spend a little more time surfing the web for 'other' stuff."

9. "It's getting late and I'm getting tired, I should start studying."

10. Loop back to step 1.