James Tang

Month: March, 2009


According to Slate, the best beef comes from Alder Spring and Niman Ranch.

Rules for steak:

No hormones.

Cow was finished on something other than corn.


Here’s an interesting article for those who don’t want to pay $20-25 for a pound of steak.


Coin Flipping

There is a technique I use to decide small things in life (what food to eat, which book to start reading, what I should do in the next 10 minutes). Usually, if the pros and cons seem equally weighted, I just toss a coin since I’m unlikely to gain any new information and the time saved is not worth the minutes used for deep thought in a marginally better decision. 

One interesting effect I notice though is the minute the coin is flipped, my decision is already made before the coin even hits the table and I am no longer unable to decide.

Edit: Nassim Taleb has an interesting perspective on coin flipping. He gives an example of a rational horse that is both equally hungry and equally thirsty and food is 10 m away to his left and water is 10 m away to his right. The horse will be stuck and die of thirst and hunger at the same time.

Nature Is Important

From Psyblog:

New study finds that short-term memory is improved 20% by walking in nature, or even just by looking at an image of a natural scene.


Just having a break from work is not enough suggests new research, it is activities in the open air which have the strongest restorative effects on our mental states.

Stop watching TV and go run/walk outside. And buy some plants/pictures of nature.

Avoiding Procrastination

From Psyblog:

  • To avoid procrastinating on a task, focus on its details and use self-imposed deadlines.
  • To stick to a task, while actually carrying it out, now it is beneficial to keep the ultimate, abstract goal in mind.
  • When evaluating progress on a hard task, when the chance of failure is high, stay focused on the details of the task.
  • Once tasks are easier or the end is in sight, a more abstract, goal focus is once again the psychological approach to choose.
  • Body Language

    Some notes taken from Body Language by Allan Pease

    Eyes, especially male eyes (due to evolutionary needs in hunting), follow movement better than stationary objects. That means when you want to focus their attention on an area move a pen to point at it. Similarly, if you want them to look at you, move something to point at your face.

    If someone seems to have closed up body language, find a way to open them up such as asking them to move, stand up, or give them something to hold (papers, coffee, etc…)

    Biting the lip means they fearful, crossing ankles means the same thing.

    When presenting, to lighten the mood, stand on the left side of the stage (your left, audience’s right). To talk seriously, stand on the right side.

    A study was done on interviews where people watched the first 15 seconds of taped interviews. Their responses were the same as what actually happened. Bottom line: first impressions are worth more than than the rest of the interview.

    To seem of higher status, have a larger vocabulary, and use less physical gestures. Using physical gestures implies you can’t convey your thoughts with words.

    Personal Investment

    Most people are familiar with investment and interest in a financial sense. For example, an investment with an 10% growth each year becomes 45 times larger after 40 years. However, if that investment only had a 5% growth, it’s only 7 times larger after 40 years. It’s the magic of compounded interest.

    If we applied that to learning, we’d see something incredible. I believe that in order to learn things, you need to find a way to connect them to old things. That’s what the whole idea of building a solid educational foundation is trying to promote. This also means that people that have a lot of models in their heads can learn new things the fastest since they have many possible things to connect it to. This would imply that educational growth follows the same path as a monetary investment. 

    I believe that a broad education will allow you the most models to learn new things. Most important though, is math. Study math and logic well, and you have a solid basis to project most science onto.

    150 People

    Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point:

    We can only keep 150 people in out life at once. The test for this is whether you can go to a bar alone with this person.

    I guess this means if we can’t think of 150 people we’d be able to spend alone for a period of hours, we’d better get out and socialize a bit more. Conversely, if we think we have more than 150 people, maybe we’re too spread out and should cut back a bit on going out. What happens is our social circle just moves, but doesn’t grow.

    Gladwell used the example of a company that has thousands of employees, but they each belong to a branch that is capped at 150 people. Maybe this idea can be brought to other institutions such as UC Berkeley. One idea would be to limit each class size in EECS to 150 students.

    Reputation is King

    While working at GS they told us:

    Capital is easy replacable with equal effort from which is was lost.

    People are harder to replace, often requires 2-3x more effort to find and train someone to equal function.

    Reputation may take 10x or 20x the amount of work to restore lost status.

    What kind of reputation are you working to build? Seems like it’s worth paying any reasonable amount or possibly cutting out a friend if it means you can stand by your reputation.

    Always Put Yourself Just a Little Behind

    Basketball data

    Skin Care

    To the surprise of a lot of my friends, I know quite a bit more than the average guy about skin care. This was more out of necessity since I was born with a strong case of eczema and little self-control. Therefore, I spent a good amount of time Freshman year researching treatments and self-experimenting.

    The best resource I found is http://www.menessentials.com/ and the forums. 

    I found these products to work the best for me (dry, sensitive skin):

    Baxter of California Daily Face Wash: really soft and doesn’t dry me out. Every Day.

    Jack Black Face Buff Energizing Scrub: works well and I don’t have a reaction towards it. Once a week.

    California North Grapeseed Clay Mask: whenever I use this, I don’t get pimples for the week.

    Dove Body Wash: leaves my skin soft and mosturized

    Urth Face Balm SPF 15: thick and keeps my face soft. The SPF is nice too.

    Aveeno Intense Relief Repair Cream: very soothing

    ScarZone Stick Scar Treatment: for any old scars I acquired when I was younger.