Ward’s random wiki

Ward’s Wiki



As far as research, Social Security Death Index, Ellis Island Records, US Censuses up until 1930 (1940 will be released on April 2, 2012), European censuses and so forth have all been useful. Ancestry.com has scanned ship manifests on it, with the names OCR'd, which was useful for me. It also had draft cards, passport applications and other things.
  • Take LDS Utah university (ask Grandpa Chuck) class
  • Cemeteries to find & GPS gravesites

Software and Data Standards


The Family History Information Standards Organisation was established in 2012 with the aim of developing international standards for family history and genealogical information.

Gramps and Gramps XML

Gramps has a number of features and views, including stored geographic information and media, citations and sources, events records, and a dashboard interface called "Gramplets" to help you keep track of the progress of your research. You can bookmark individual relativees for easy access, and it handles historic calendar formats for dates not in the modern Gregorian calendar.
  • Gramps sounds like a great/best open-source tool & better (XML) than GEDCOM data structure!
    • Coded in Python using PyGObject, and released in 2001.
    • Supports GEDCOM imports/exports. Can export to PhpGedView
    • Way to share it web-based? You can export to web pages: "Export to Web Pages -Select the entire database, family lines or selected individuals to a collection of web pages ready for upload to the World Wide Web."
Gramps data

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  1. GEDCOM 5.5 Standard is usually the safest type of GEDCOM to export your files from the non-Gramps program (like FTM).
  2. In Gramps, choose the Family Trees icon in the toolbar, or in the menu Family Trees -> Manage Family Tree, to open the Family Tree Manager. Create a new family tree, choose a name, and click on the Load Family Tree button to open.
  3. Now that a family tree is loaded, select Family Trees -> Import from the menu.
  4. Locate the GEDCOM file created by your program, and select Open.


  • LDS de facto open source standard: GEDCOM (lineage-based, as opposed to evidence-based, linkages)

Family Tree Maker – Ancestry.com

  • Grandpa Chuck Bullock used Ancestry.com’s Family Tree Maker (FTM), which is _____(?)



  • According to Kurt Zumwalt, this is ‘da troof’ (paraphrasing Mr. Zumwalt) for Pacific Northwest weather forecasts: http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/

Measures and Lengths

Decimal Places – Aprox. Distance

1 – 10 kilometers 6.2 miles

2 – 1 kilometer 0.62 miles

3 – 100 meters About 328 feet

4 – 10 meters About 33 feet

5 – 1 meter |About 3 feet

6 – 10 centimeters About 4 inches

7 – 1.0 centimeter About ½ an inch

8 – 1.0 millimeter The width of paperclip wire.

9 – 0.1 millimeter The width of a strand of hair.

10 – 10 microns A speck of pollen.

11 – 1.0 micron A piece of cigarette smoke.

12 – 0.1 micron You’re doing virus-level mapping at this point.

13 – 10 nanometers Does it matter how big this is?

14 – 1.0 nanometer Your fingernail grows about this far in one second.

15 – 0.1 nanometer An atom. An atom! What are you mapping?


Moving Checklist

  • Find a new place and sign a lease. Break old lease if needed.
  • Reserve a Uhaul/schedule movers
  • Eat all the food
  • Take a lotta stuff to Goodwill/sell on Craigslist/free box
  • Change USPS postal service address: https://moversguide.usps.com/icoa/move-info/icoa-main-flow.do?execution=e2s2&_flowId=icoa-main-flow
  • If moving out of state: Register to vote in new state [do NOT use the crappy & outdated process online at USPS. Instead, google your new state’s voting registration and do it online. You may need to print out a form.]
  • Find a new public library and register for a card (will need proof of new address)


Old Time Radio


Science Fiction radio

Firesign Theatre

Firesign’s LPs

Firesign’s radio programs


Science and Knowledge


Richard Feynman’s CalTech commencement speech (1974)

Nassim Taleb

  • Read philosophy and former Wall Street trader Nassim Taleb’s entire opus. You will learn at least one extremely important idea from each book, and will likely enjoy yourself immensely, even if you don’t always agree with the man. You might start with the Black Swan, his most famous book, then go back to Fooled by Randomness (the first in the ‘incerto’), then read Antifragile, and then the last one, Skin in the Game. You can also peruse The Bed of Procruste’s for completeness. It’s a quick read of aphorisms, and not in the same format as the other four Incerto (Taleb’s name for these works) books mentioned above.

Books and Reading


Herbert Hoover: A Biography – Lyons

Read Winter-Spring 2018 in Palo Alto after visiting Hoover Tower & memorial on Stanford campus Hoover’s formula for combating tough times/economic depression:

  1. Local resources-neighbor, existing social agencies, municipality, the state-represent first line of defense against distress. They won’t be as easily imposed upon ‘by chiselers and malingerers, thus leaving more for families in real trouble.’
  2. Federal Government is last line of defense. Tries to reduce problem in the meantime by generating jobs, stimulating capital investment, providing credits for endangered farms & businesses, spreading available work.
  3. US Treasury grants are given strictly in relation to concrete needs when necessary, and administered through state and local committees. This removes patronage and pork-barrel diversions, Federal bureaucracy, and maximizes human good will.
  4. Effort as a whole is treated as ’emergency program’ for meeting specific needs in specific places, not an excuse to ‘relieve individuals of their responsibilities to their neighbors, or to relieve private institutions of their responsibilities to the public.’

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  • IDEA: a ‘Hoover Commission’ for non-partisan analysis and proposed fixes to government (efficiency, consolidations, etc.)

Excerpts from the first Hoover Commission report, which was focused more on government process and not on programs/objectives:

* That competition between two or more agencies in the same area of operation be eliminated. Ex: Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, Soil Conservation Service in the same Dept of Agriculture.
* Responsibility for land management activities be concentrated in one department (vs many agencies)
* No duplicated hospitals by Army, Navy, Public Health service, VA.
* Purchasing, inventory, and other 'house-keeping' functions by simplified and consolidated
* More money on preventive medicine and basic medical research and less on medical benefits to non-service veterans
* Post Office be completely removed from politics [WW: I'd add the IRS!]
* Less agencies reporting to the President, and reassigned to various Departments for 'more rigid accountability'
  • On Retirement: ‘There is no joy to be had from retirement except in some kind of productive work. Otherwise you degenerate into talking to everybody about your pains and pills and the other fellow talks about his. Any oldster who keeps at even part-time work has something worth talking about. He has a zest for the morning paper and his three meals a day. The point is not to retire from work or you will shrivel up into a nuisance to all mankind.’
  • ‘This nation needs a rebirth of that great spiritual force which has been impaired by cynicism and weakened by foreign infections. Call it nationalism if you will. But there is an American kind of nationalism, which is neither isolationalism nor aggression and embedded deep within it is compassion for distress both at home and overseas. It is the kind of nationalism which recognizes changes in the world and requires that we meet them with forward-looking measures… The spiritual forces of which I speak is enshrined in the word America. We do not use that word merely as a geographical term. At one time–and even now for millions of Americans–that word summoned to mind the whole background of our nation. The word America recalls that millions of people for over three hundred years have sought our shores as a refuge from oppression. To these millions the word America came to mean a civilization unique on earth by the fusion of the attainments of scores of nations. For centuries the word America among the great masses of people over the world has been an emblem of hope, of more security in life–and more freedom… The word America means that our wars were not fought for the glory of war but for freedom in the world. It means a country where the doors of opportunity are open to every boy and girl. It means law and order, freedom of choice and callings. It means glorious strides in the advancement of civilization. The word America envisions the rills of freedom springing from our mountains and plains, pouring into a mighty river which refreshes not only our own people but the whole of mankind.’



The Roads to Modernity by Gertrude Himmelfarb

Loaned to be me by Uncle Craig Edmund Burke in explaining the virtue of ‘prejudice’ (i.e.: Pre-conceived notion, it seems), from ‘Reflections on the French Revolution’:

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages. Many of our men of speculation, instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man’s virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.


Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure—but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.

Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, propounded in "one of his best-known and often repeated sermons, [https://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-50-The-Use-of-Money| The Use of Money]: Gain all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can. [Editor’s note: sounds like the motto for me!]

Note: George Washington’s Farewell Address is read annually to the US Senate on the date of his birthday (Feb 22nd, celebrated on the third Monday each February.)

Tocqueville, after describing the "diverse nature of the component parts of the Union", wrote:

A time will arrive, therefore, when one can see one hundred fifty million men in North America, equal among themselves, who all belong to the same family, who have the same point of departure, the same civilization, the same language, the same religion, the same habits, the same mores, and through whom though will circulate in the same form and be painted in the same colors. All the rest is doubtful, but this is certain.

Also Tocqueville:

[Self-interest] is a doctrine not very lofty, but clear and sure. It does not seek to attain great objects; but it attains all those it aims for without too much effort… [It] does not produce great devotion; but it suggests little sacrifices each day; by itself it cannot make a man virtuous; but if forms a multitude of citizens who are regulated, temperate, moderate, farsighted, masters of themselves; and if it does not lead directly to virtue through the will, it brings them near to it insensibly through habits…


Social Science


Greek classics

Iliad translation recommendations

From https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R22JXF64GBZQ90/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B06XSXBLV6

Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Iliad (Kindle Edition)
UPDATED 05/28/17: Homer's "Iliad" is truly a great work of literature, and I certainly agree with all the other reviewers who extol its virtues, but the person who translates this epic poem into English from the archaic Greek is all-important to one's appreciation and enjoyment of it. One needn't suffer through a poor translation when good ones are available. This public domain translation by Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley Derby (hereafter referred to as Lord Derby) is outdated and not particularly good; it is certainly not enjoyable to read. (For that reason, I suspect few of the rave reviewers, though they quite rightly love and enjoy the "Iliad," have actually endured THIS particular public domain translation of it.)

Faithfulness to the original language AND readability are what one seeks in any translation of the "Iliad," and the translator must strike a proper balance between the two. Greek sentences are structured differently from English sentences, and adhering too strictly to Greek word order and syntax will result in very awkward English. Throw poetic form into the equation and the result can be a very unreal English syntax. The translator has to determine what Homer said and meant (back then) in Greek and decide how BEST to communicate that to us (today) in English.

There is no particular virtue in reading a sometimes convoluted Elizabethan or Victorian rendering of the "Iliad" in iambic pentameter or heroic couplets (since Homer used neither) unless one especially enjoys reading such. In fact, foundational differences in the two languages prevent a true equivalence in English of Homer's original poetic structure in Greek; that is the reason why many translators, considering any such versification to be artificial at best and dishonest at worst, render this work in prose. But at the very least Homer's poetic form was comparatively simpler and his linguistic expression was more direct than some older translators using English poetical formats make him seem; that is why other translators now often choose free verse as being an acceptable alternative to either complex metrical forms or prose.

Of course, being readable or "understandable" is not the same as being "easy," and being too simple or too contemporary is no more of a virtue than being too difficult or too old-fashioned; rendering Homer's Greek into remedial-reader English or today's slangy vernacular is inappropriate, inaccurate and does the modern reader a disservice -- so one must choose one's "Iliad" (and one's translator of it) very carefully (a task not made any easier by countless Kindle Store editions whose blurbs fail to identify the translator, or which seem to describe one translation but actually provide another).

Below (in no particular order) are various translations (most, but not all of them, good) that I have read and can personally attest to. Several are available as ebooks; others may have to be obtained new or used in paperback or hardcover. Some adopt a poetic format; the others (which I have specifically indicated) are in prose.

(1) Robert Fagles' 1990 free verse translation from Penguin is particularly readable (and the introductory information by Bernard Knox is invaluable). Perhaps due to its having been somewhat over-hyped, academicians now seem less enthralled by it than they once were, some on the grounds that Fagles does not always strictly adhere to Homer -- but usually that claim is made when comparing Fagles' to more literal translations, ones that are more scholarly but much less readable. I find his version quite sound, and I (and many others) still like it. I think it merits serious consideration as an excellent first choice and a contender for favorite translation.

(2) E.V. Rieu's original 1950 prose version (from Penguin) was very understandable but in some specific instances treated Homer a tad too freely. This has been remedied in the present prose version, expertly updated by Peter Jones in 2003. I liked the original very much, but I like the update even better. This is also a very good first choice and a favorite of many.

(3) W.H.D. Rouse provided a sometimes loose but generally serviceable, 1938 prose rendering which was long available as a popular, low-priced paperback. At one time this self-proclaimed "plain language" version was widely used in many public schools because it was inexpensive and considered easier-to-understand than other (pre-1938) versions then available; with newer versions today, that ease is debatable. An ebook edition of it as a Signet Classic from Penguin is currently available in the Kindle Store.

(4) Ennis Rees' refreshing, 1963 free verse translation from Random House/Modern Library is my favorite and not too dissimilar in style from Fagles' but (perhaps) more straight-forward. At present, it may not be easy to locate a copy outside of a used book store since it seems to be out-of-print.

(5) Michael Reck's 1994 version, from HarperCollins, stresses its adherence to the oral tradition and is an honest, solid, respectful, and understandable translation. Though it seems to be lesser known, it is faithful to the Greek yet with comfortable English syntax. It also is not easy to find; an ebook edition, available when I originally wrote this in 2012, has sadly since disappeared from the Kindle Store.

(6) Alfred Hurd Chase & William G. Perry Jr., wrote a prose version in 1950 once available in paperback from Bantam and used in schools. I haven't seen this lately, but it is very readable, and I treasure my battered old copy.

(7) Richmond Lattimore's VERY accurate 1951 translation is published by the University of Chicago. It is much heralded but more scholarly and more difficult to read than other modern versions; it is widely regarded as THE very best translation. While I recognize its true greatness, it is not my favorite due to its awkward English syntax (making it, for me, a chore to read).

(8) Robert Fitzgerald's 1974 translation from Doubleday is very highly regarded, but it is not an easy read. Many names are spelled less familiarly (such that "Achilles" becomes "Akhilleus"). I have a love-hate relationship to this version. It would not be my first choice for story comprehension and ease-of-reading, but its rich visual imagery and keen word-play amply reward anyone willing to make the effort to read it and devote the time to fully savor it. As I become disenchanted by the shallow simplicity and flippancy of some newer translations, I find this one becoming ever more appealing to me. After Lattimore, this is generally regarded by many as the second-best translation.

(9) Robert Graves made an exciting novel-like, prose translation in 1959 titled "The Anger of Achilles" which is literate, generally respectful to the original, and particularly enjoyable. This lively version is great fun to read -- and an ebook edition recently appeared in the Kindle Store.

(10) Stanley Lombardo's well-received 1997 translation is one I didn't fully read, because what I did read of it didn't impress me. Both in tone and in linguistic style, I found it to be an odd and inconsistent mix of formal and informal, noble words and deeds juxtaposed with jarring colloquialisms. I am probably in the minority, but I did not like this version.

(11) Alexander Pope's classic version (1715-1720) is arguably more Pope than Homer, though some people love his heroic couplets, and it IS truly a poetic masterpiece in its own right. For many Pope fans, THIS is the one and only "Iliad," and if Homer didn't write his this way, he SHOULD have.

(12) William Cowper's 1791, blank verse version demonstrates, by comparison, just how good Pope's is. Cowper's rendering results in awkward English syntax that is not as much to be read as deciphered. When I have to mentally re-translate a translation, I seek another.

(13) Stephen Mitchell's 2011 translation demonstrates that being new and easy isn't necessarily always better. Like Lombardo, he uses too much inappropriate and sometimes jarring colloquial English, but unlike all the others, he expunges quite a few sections (and one entire book) of traditional text he feels are post-Homeric additions. (But what if he is wrong?) Given the accretive nature of this epic at virtually every stage in its development and transmission to us, this excision seems ill-advised. Being thus different in material-content from ALL the others, this ipso facto abridgment causes it to be something of a secondary or niche translation.

(14) Andrew Lang, Walter Leaf, and Ernest Myers rendered the "Iliad" into late 19th century, "modern" English in their 1883 prose version. Although slightly old-fashioned in style, it is quite readable and has a reputation for accuracy. My copy is an old Modern Library Giant.

(15 & 16): Two new translations currently available in the Kindle Store, one by Ian Johnston (2006) and the other by Barry P. Powell (2013), I have only sampled. I found nothing dramatically wrong with either of them, except a colloquialism or two in Powell's that seemed incongruous to me, such as when he has Agamemnon say to his men, "So don't rub me the wrong way" (Book 1, Line 33). Both pass muster in that Homer is generally honestly and powerfully rendered, but I personally don't care for Powell's translational flippancy and style. Neither translator offers a significant qualitative improvement over other recent translations, though Johnston comes close, and I prefer him to Powell.

(17) Caroline Alexander's 2015 translation from HarperCollins DOES offer a superb and significant improvement over other recent translations, and I highly recommend it. Without a doubt the best among new ones, it is also superior to many old ones. Though solid and true to Homer, her English syntax is direct and natural, never flippant or colloquial. The ebook formatting of its long lines, necessarily divided on small-screen, Kindle-type devices, is uneven and distracting -- but that is easily remedied by switching to landscape mode.

(18) Peter Green's 2015 translation, published by the University of California Press, is rightly praised for its faithfulness to Homer's Greek (not unlike Lattimore) and its lush poetic imagery, but because of that, its English syntax is not always as smooth or direct as might be desired. Nevertheless, it is superior in many ways to other recent versions mentioned above (by Johnston, Lombardo, Mitchell, and Powell), but NOT (in my opinion) to Caroline Alexander's (which I find more readable).

(19) A.S. Kline's 2009 translation provides a version for the average, non-specialist reader and is currently bargain-priced at only $1.99, but his heavy use of commas every few words makes for choppy reading.

(20) George Chapman was the first translator of Homer, and his formal but majestic, Elizabethan verse edition of 1611 was (and by some, still is) highly regarded. Today, its interest to us is more in the realm of literary history than as a practical choice for general reading.

(21) Theodore Alois Buckley's public domain version (1873) is no better than Lord Derby's, and like it, should probably best be avoided.

(22) Samuel Butler's sturdy, 1898 prose version is worth considering (and I will say more about it below as a public domain alternative to Lord Derby's).

The above list is by no means complete, but it hints at the number and variety of translations that exist. Each of these translations (whether prose or poetry) has particular strengths and weaknesses as well as supporters and detractors, and none is perfect. That, not unexpectedly, creates some robust debate among readers of them. But, in my opinion, most of them are preferable to this public domain version by Lord Derby.

I would certainly encourage you to consider trying some or all of the above, but I might suggest (purely as a practical and inexpensive starting point) the public domain, prose translation by Samuel Butler, available for free from various online sources. No such free verson is currently offered in the Kindle Store, but several well-formatted editions are sold there for as little as $.99, and for that low price some even include Butler's translation of "The Odyssey." Although a well-known, late 19th century translator of Homer's two epics and the favorite of many readers, Samuel Butler isn't necessarily the scholar's favorite, and (like virtually every other translator of Homer) he has a few idiosyncrasies [see the NOTE below]. Therefore, he may not be considered the "best" translator from an academic perspective, but Samuel Butler's English IS straightforward, comparatively easy-to-read, and appropriately majestic but quite understandable; you will certainly be able to better appreciate and enjoy the drama and sweep of the "Iliad" in HIS version rather than struggle with the awkward English of Lord Derby's.

NOTE: One of Butler's idiosyncracies (which is by no means unique to him) is a preference for using the names of Roman deities rather than the Greek (as in "Jove" rather than "Zeus"). He did so because he felt readers of his time were more familiar with the Roman names; today, the opposite is true. I do, however, own two hardcovered editions of Butler's translation in which all the Greek names have been restored, so presumably there MAY be a similarly treated ebook available (though I haven't yet found it). Not all (nor even, most) Greek names have been so treated by Butler; "Achilles," for example, remains "Achilles" (though "Odysseus" does become "Ulysses"). But for most readers the occasional appearance of a Roman name should prove to be little more than a minor distraction from an otherwise enjoyable text. Since no translation is perfect, at least this imperfection is quite bearable.

ADDENDUM: Today the distinctions between poetry and prose treatments are fading due to the replacement of old, rigid metrical forms with new, free verse translations that are as direct, pleasant and comfortable-to-read as their prose counterparts. By going with the flow and reading the text as written, adhering to punctuation, pausing at commas and stopping at periods, but NOT slavishly and artificially stopping at the end of lines UNLESS punctuation dictates, readers should find in these free verse translations language as natural and understandable as that contained in prose versions. With so many wonderful translations currently available (whether in prose or in poetry), NOW is truly a great time to find and read an "Iliad" that's just right for you.

Audio Books

Audio book recommendations

 -- From an Amazon reviewer --
One of the best readings I have ever heard is Simon Prebble's reading of Graham Greene's "Our Man in Havana," issued in cassette tapes and now sadly out of print. (Why are some of the most superb audio recordings no longer available? Some other examples are Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" with Irene Worth - who came from America - reading Cleopatra; and John Milton's "Paradise Lost" read by Anthony Quayle, only




Wildfire Smoke


If you wanna tan without burning, it appears you can sit in the sun for the minimum required to tan, but below the time to get a sunburn/cancer. This might be 15 minutes in Spring/Summer midday sun for a light-skinned person, and perhaps an hour for a dark-skinned person. You should start off with several days between sessions, but then you can lay out once per day, say, afterward.

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Chapter 6 
Understanding MED and MMD 
· Minimal Erythemal Dose
· Minimal Melanogenic Dose

Two terms commonly used in the indoor tanning industry is Minimal Erythemal Dose (MED) and Minimal Melanogenic Dose (MMD). Both terms seem to be self-explanatory, however, the true definition of each term is necessary for a clear understanding of the science of tanning.

Understanding MED and MMD
MED is the Minimal Erythemal Dose and is defined as the threshold dose that may produce sunburn. MMD on the other hand is the Minimal Melanogenic Dose and is equal to the lowest dose required to develop a visible suntan.

Even though the terms MED and MMD seem to be self-explanatory at first glance, the translation of these values in the daily practice of indoor tanning often leads to misunderstandings and wrong interpretations, especially when it comes to determining exposure times based on MED and MMD values.

How Threshold Dosages are Determined
Assume that unprotected skin has been exposed to UV radiation for the first time. In order to determine the MED, the reaction of the skin will be recorded 24 hours after exposure. The minimal dose that induces any visible reddening at that point is defined as one MED.

Redness that occurs immediately after exposure, however, and disappears during the following three to five hours is mainly caused by heat and is not comparable with real UV erythema. This is the reason why the reading is not taken until 24 hours later.

For users of tanning units, the MED provides important information about the sunburning effect of the equipment, since an even perceptible reddening is the first sign of a sunburn reaction. In order to prevent possible acute or long term risks due to indoor tanning, the MED should not be exceeded during a session.

The MMD is determined in a very similar manner. In contrast to the MED examination, however, the readings are taken seven days after exposure instead of 24 hours. The minimal dose required to produce an even noticeable tan, which can be observed seven days later, is defined as one MMD. The interval between exposure and reading is necessary to permit the occurrence of new melanin biosynthesis (melano-genesis), which only becomes evident after several days of UV application.

Why Standard Values?
To better understand MED and MMD, it should be said that both are individual values. The lowest effective dose developing a sunburn as well as the value of producing a suntan depend distinctly on the skin sensitivity of the person (i.e. skin types).

In order to eliminate these individually influencing factors, MED and MMD have been standardized. With standardized MED and MMD values, sunlamp products can be characterized and specified and become comparable with respect to their biological capabilities.

Such information based on these standard values is of greater meaning than statements about the physical data such as UVB/UVA ratios or UVB percentages.

Standard MED and MMD Compared
By comparing MED and MMD values of tanning units, it may be surprising that the required exposure time for reaching one MMD is usually longer than the corresponding time for one MED. This seems to indicate that it is impossible to tan without first developing red skin. At the same time, the question comes up: How can we achieve tanning slowly, progressively, and safely without producing a sunburn?

To shed some light on this question, consider the following: As mentioned above, MED and MMD are standardized values and valid for unprotected and untanned Skin Type II. This means that such given values are basically only valid before undergoing the first exposure.

The effect on the skin of a melanogentic dosage will become evident only three to five days after exposure, at the earliest. Further, Melanogenesis is a long lasting process, therefore single doses work cumulatively. In other words, the skin does not forget the induced pigment effects and accumulates these single pigment-producing dosages over time.

Besides Melanogenesis there exists the ‘IPD’, an immediate pigment darkening effect which is a rather superficially effective tanning mechanism. IPD is a transient reaction induced by the photochemical oxidation of preformed melanin pigments by long-wave UV, darkening the skin during exposure.

By the use of a sunbed, for example, which is characterized by an exposure time of 20 minutes for one MED and 45 minutes for one MMD. Melanogenesis can be induced in two different and, at least theoretically, conceivable ways.

MED/MMD-Based Schedule
Consider the given MMD exposure time of 45 minutes. Although the applied melanogenetic dose is high enough to produce new pigments, an exposure of this duration cannot be recommended because the MED would be exceeded more than twice during such a session.

It is better to get a suntan by starting an exposure schedule consisting of three applications of 15 minutes each during one week. The advantage of such a procedure is twofold. The applied dose per session does not reach the limit of one MED, however, at the same time the skin has received a total melanogenetic dose of one MMD. This means that the process of new pigment formation will be induced without the risk of sunburn. Furthermore, at the beginning of each session series, this exposure schedule is in agreement with FDA regulations. In additions to Melanogenesis, even during the first exposure session the skin will be tanned immediately if the horny layer contains some weakly colored, preformed pigments which then can be darkened by IPD. Generally, human skin has some pigment pre-stages available (except Skin Type I). In this context, it may be helpful to know that with most of the commonly used sunlamps, the threshold dose to initiate IPD will be reached quicker than 1 MED.

Depending on the amount of available pigment (and skin types), the effect of IPD usually remains only for hours, at the most a few days. With an increasing number of sessions, the amount of pre-stage pigment will be enhanced.

Talking about indoor tanning as well as outdoor tanning, the mechanisms of ‘immediate pigment darkening’ and of ‘pigment formation’ (Melanogenesis) interact so that a clear differentiation between them is often impossible. As a rule, it can be established that IPD is more important during the first sessions while Melanogenesis comes more and more into play during the following exposures.

By using suntanning units, both mechanisms are utilized. At the beginning, the tanning results are mainly caused by IPD. With increasing sessions, the obtained suntan becomes darker and deeper due to further melanin synthesis. Further, with well-tanned skin, the required exposure time to develop erythema will be prolonged, and thus offers an effective sun protection.

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Sun Exposure

The sun feels great on your skin, doesn’t it? That it offers health benefits like increased vitamin D and nitric oxide production is another reason to get sun. But there’s a point where vitamin D production stops and skin damage sets in, where your skin blisters and the vitamin D formed by your body must be diverted away from general health promotion, bone health, and sex hormone production toward protecting your skin. That point is the minimum effective dose of UV.

Hovering around the MED for sun will also give you freedom in addition to vitamin D. If you’re nursing a bad sunburn, you’ll have to stay out of the direct sun for a week or two. If you stuck to the MED, you can go back out the very next day and enjoy the weather.

Your MED for sun exposure will depend on several variables:

Skin color – The darker your skin, the more time in the sun you’ll require for optimal vitamin D production and the longer you can stay before incurring damage. For a light skinned person, 15 minutes of midday spring/summer sun might be sufficient. For a dark skinned person, it might be an hour.

Diet – Nutrition affects skin vulnerability. Omega-3s, saturated fats, antioxidant-rich anti-inflammatory plants (tea, tomatoes, berries), spices, and animals (salmon, shrimp) all affect it positively, while inflammatory seed oils high in omega-6 fats affect it negatively.

Sleep – Skin resistance to sun damage follows a circadian rhythm, and bad sleep leaves you susceptible to UV rays.

Whatever your situation, a sun MED exists. The point is to discover and hew to it.

UV radiation and Sunscreen

  • UVA is longer-wave (320 – 400 nm)/lower-frequencyand lower-energy UV radiation that is primarily responsible for immediate tanning, and also for skin aging/wrinkling, and ‘may’ enhance skin cancer, and makes up most of the UV light that gets through the atmosphere and down to our skins (95%.)
  • UVB is shorter-wave (290 – 320 nm)/higher-frequency & higher-energy and is primarily responsible for ‘delayed tanning’, sunburns, and ‘enhances’ skin aging & skin cancer, but doesn’t penetrate below the top layer of skin.
  • My physics-based thought: why not just block the UVB (tanning booths are almost entirely UVA) with an appropriate sunscreen and tan for the ‘min effective dose’ (15 minutes, say) with that, then cover up with zinc oxide to block all UV for the rest of the day? Titanium Dioxide is a ‘physical barrier’ (so no chemical worries) that apparently blocks both UVB and UVA2, leaving only the least-energetic (and presumably least dangerous) UAV1, which might be enough for tanning!
  • Better descriptions of UV from WHO: http://www.who.int/uv/faq/whatisuv/en/index2.html

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What is the difference between UVA, UVB and UVC?

The three types of UV radiation are classified according to their wavelength. They differ in their biological activity and the extent to which they can penetrate the skin. The shorter the wavelength, the more harmful the UV radiation. However, shorter wavelength UV radiation is less able to penetrate the skin.

Short-wavelength UVC is the most damaging type of UV radiation. However, it is completely filtered by the atmosphere and does not reach the earth's surface.

Medium-wavelength UVB is very biologically active but cannot penetrate beyond the superficial skin layers. It is responsible for delayed tanning and burning; in addition to these short-term effects it enhances skin ageing and significantly promotes the development of skin cancer. Most solar UVB is filtered by the atmosphere.

The relatively long-wavelength UVA accounts for approximately 95 per cent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface. It can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. Furthermore, it also contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling. For a long time it was thought that UVA could not cause any lasting damage. Recent studies strongly suggest that it may also enhance the development of skin cancers.

Types of FDA-approved sunscreen ingredients by UV blocking


FDA-Approved Sunscreens  
Active Ingredient/UV Filter Name    Range Covered
UVA1: 340-400 nm
UVA2: 320-340 nm
UVB: 290-320 nm
Chemical Absorbers:  
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)    UVB
Avobenzone  UVA1
Cinoxate    UVB
Dioxybenzone    UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)   UVA2
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid)   UVB
Homosalate  UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate)   UVA2
Octocrylene UVB
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) UVB
Octisalate ( Octyl Salicylate)  UVB
Oxybenzone  UVB, UVA2
Padimate O  UVB
Sulisobenzone   UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate    UVB
Physical Filters:    
Titanium Dioxide    UVB, UVA2
Zinc Oxide  UVB,UVA2, UVA1


Miracle Stain Remover

This is legit. It seems that you can use any kind of dish soap. This works on sweat stains, grease/oil stains, and most other stains, but I have encountered a few mystery spots that won’t come out.

Mix a little dish soap, hydrogen peroxide (2 H202 to 1 soap) directly on the stains, sprinkle a little baking soda for fun, and rub it into the stain with an old toothbrush or other scrub brush. Let sit for a couple hours or overnight, then launder as usual: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/how-to-remove-yellow-armpit-stains





Grocery Stores



Rhine River area


Theme parks

Los Angeles

  • Getty Villa is beautiful, Getty Museum great art collection and nice gardens
  • LACMA also very nice. Check the exhibitions.
  • La Brea tar pits museum interesting
  • Disneyland is fun. Use the Fast Passes and go at a non-weekend, non-peak time. Ride the popular rides including Pirates of the Carribbean, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain (you will get wet, especially in front!) early. Space Mountain too, but then use the Single Rider line to get right back on! Star Tours is popular, but motion sickness is an issue.
    • Any water ride ends up being fun. Mr Toad’s Wild Ride is good times for a silly kids ride. It’s a Small World is a hit with some…

Daly City/South of San Francisco

  • Koi palace has very good dim sum in Daly City. Get there before it opens on weekends to get a table!

Palo Alto

  • Stanford Campus: see Hoover Tower and read about the Hoovers (if you want, pay to go up to the carrillion tower, optionally, it’s just ok. Hear the carrillion bells Fridays), visit the (free) Cantor art museum + Rodin sculpture garden outside, check out the nearby cactus garden and Stanford Mausoleum of the Stanford family, the Memorial Church (free, check hours) is amazing too, and you can pay for a guided tour on Fridays or something.
  • Stanford Theatre on University Ave, where all the food, shops & dining are, is amazing, and the best date night in town: $7 + cheap popcorn and soda for classic 1925 – 1960 American movies. Schedule online at stanfordtheatre.org, or something like that.
  • Fine library system.
  • The Foster art museum: small one on Commercial.
  • Purissima Redwoods has nice trails like the loop leading up to a small peak that starts from Grabtown Gulch.
  • If you like rich people’s houses, the Filoli tour was nice. (Hearst Castle near Big Sur is far superior, but a 4 hour drive away…)
  • Pulgas Water Temple?

Big Sur/South of Palo Alto

  • Hearst Castle is a must! The $40 ticket is well worth it, and funds the CA State Parks.
    • Check out the elephant seals on the beach near by.
    • Hike/backpack in the Big Sur hills national forest area (south part of the total green space, if I recall.) Bad traffic and dirt roads to get there though, FYI. Bring high clearance vehicle.
    • Henry Coe state park near Gilroy is grand. Wild turkeys, beautiful and HUGE maple trees near the beginning of one paved path from a parking lot to see in fall, nice trails, and backpacking opportunities (not a ton though; VERY crowded on weekends, but you can do a tough hike and get away from everyone relatively quickly, and have nice views from a ridge.)

Redwood City

  • Redwood City is neat for a day. Check out the beautiful San Mateo County Museum (which I think is just the town hall building) on your own (small fee.)


  • The incomparable Felipe’s grocery store is excellent. Great prices on high-quality fresh produce, along with an assortment of breads, dairy, and other goodies. (For Seattleites, it’s like Lenny’s but bigger and, I must admit, better.)
  • Golfland USA Sunnyvale – $7 per person family night mini golf on Monday’s from 5 PM until closing (10 PM as of writing.) They also have other locations like Milpitas, Castro Valley, Anaheim

Cultural Activities


Ward’s list of things to do in Seattle

  • Walk around Green Lake on a nice day, then grab an omelette (comes with hashbrowns) and coffee breakfast at Beth’s, or lunch or dinner at Cuban spot Bongo’s, or what is apparently excellent fried chicken at Duck Island, all across the Aurora freeway on the west side of the lake.
  • Wander around Ballard or the smaller Fremont and grab some drinks at the trendy bars there. Brouwer’s in Fremont is my favorite bar and specializes in Belgian and other beers, and has good Belgian food as well. Fremont Brewing company has a great dog-friendly outdoor patio for summer days, but it gets crowded.
  • See Pike Place market, including the first Starbucks. The market is pricey on veggies, but has great deals on flowers (like $5 – $15 for very nice seasonal bouquets.) There are places to eat too. Walk down the ‘hill climb’ to the waterfront while you’re there also, and gaze at the ferries, islands, and Olympic mountains if it’s clear.
  • Wander around the University of Washington campus, focusing on seeing Red Square and visiting the Reading Room in the magnificent neo-Gothic Suzzalo Library, and wandering through the Quad. For a few weeks in Spring, usually sometime in April, or mid-late March if it’s warm, the cherry blossoms are in bloom in the Quad and are a must see, if you can make your way through the hoards of Asian tourists (and locals) taking selfies. The Quad is a good place to picnic or sun yourself with the students on a nice day. The Henry Art Gallery, adjacent to Red Square, has a small, mostly local collection of art. I think it’s free/discounted on certain days, which makes a quick stop worthwhile. The Burke Museum on the northwest corner of campus has interesting anthropological exhibits. Get lunch at any of the small, cheap ethnic (mostly Asian) restaurants on University Way (known as ‘the Ave’ for inscrutable reasons.) Thai Tom’s is an institution. Eat in the cramped, dark, smokey and crowded restaurant for the full experience. Come at an off time to avoid a long wait.
Sunsets, outdoor views and picnicking spots around Seattle
  • The Ballard Locks that separate Lake Union from the Puget Sound (and therefore the Pacific Ocean) are impressive, and a fine place to picnic on a nice day and watch the boats go by.
  • Kerry Park is the quintessential (and most crowded) view of Seattle, and gets packed at Sunset or on weekends. To avoid the crowds, head to…
  • … Gas Works park in Fremont, which is fascinating and has beautiful views of Lake Union and downtown Seattle, and is walking distance to the Fremont Brewery… Picnic or have a drink on the hill with everyone else at sunset.
  • The Washington Park Arboretum near the University of Washington is nice, especially in Spring or Summer when the rhododendrons (the Official State Flower of Washington!) or other plants are in bloom.
  • If you’re south of Seattle, the Kubota Gardens are worth a quick visit, though I’d recommend the Arboretum instead.
Art Museums
  • Seattle Art Museum has free days to the regular collection on the First Thursdays of each month (which is also 1/2 off on the special exhibits.)
  • There’s also the smaller and cheaper Seattle Asian Art Museum up in the scenic Volunteer Park area of Capital Hill. Stop by the conservatory that’s just north of the museum. Wander around and gawk at the wealth people’s houses that surround the area, and check out St Mark’s Episcopal church on 10th Ave if it’s open.
  • The Frye Art Museum in First Hill is always free, with parking across the street. Check out the nearby St James cathedral too. Sometimes they have choir concerts.
Theatre and Performance Art
  • There’s free Shakespeare in the park in the summer time (usually July & August, which is about all you get for summer in Seattle!) This is a good excuse to check out Seattle’s extensive parks system too (and there are performances outside of Seattle as well, including Lynnwood, Mercer Island, and Issaquah.)
  • Between Thanksgiving until just after Christmas, see the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker.
Hikes and walks within Seattle
  • One of my favorite parks is Discovery Park. Park in the South Parking lot and hike all the way down to the beach, and further along the beach out the lighthouse if you like.

Outside of the Seattle city limits

  • Visit Leavenworth for a Bavarian weekend (2 hours’ drive with no traffic.)
  • Take a ferry to the San Juan islands (2 hours’ drive and then a 30 min ferry. Check ferry schedules and backlog of cars waiting to get on…)
  • Drive up to Vancouver, BC (3 hours’ drive; bring your passport if you’re a US citizen, or the necessary Visa if you’re not!)
  • Visit Victoria, BC and have tea, check out the Empress Hotel, Buchart Gardens in spring/summer, the historical museum.
  • Springtime: see the Skagit Valley tulip festival (1.5 hours’ drive)

Zaid’s list of things to do in Seattle

  • Bite of Seattle
  • Chihuly Garden of Glass
  • Pop Culture Museum (formerly known as the EMP, and designed, atrociously, by Frank Gehry.)
  • SAM (Seattle Art Museum)
  • Pike Place Market
  • Giant Shoe Museum (really?)
  • Hiking:
  • Vashon Island
  • U-District and UW campus (Suzzalo library)
  • Bad Art Museum
  • Waterfall Garden Park (?)
  • Columbia Tower Sky View Observatory (higher than the Space Needle and cheaper!)
  • Bruce Lee grave site at cemetery near Volunteer Park. Many other famous Seattleites buried there too.
  • Capitol Hill for food, scene, bars, and clubs
  • Washington Park Arboretum in the Spring and summer (free)
  • SAM Olympic Sculpture Park (free)
  • Green Lake park (walking around the 3 mile perimeter takes about an hour)
  • Pinball Museum in the International District. Get dim sum beforehand at Harbor View (Ward’s favorite), or Jade Garden (other white people’s favorite.)
  • Paseo’s (get the Caribbean roast, or the Smokin’ Thighs if you don’t eat pork.) Go to the tiny Fremont shop for the true experience, and then take your order to go and eat in the park nearby, or at one of the outdoor tables. Paseo’s has a location in SODO too which serves the same food, but it’s not the same experience as crowding in line in Fremont!
  • Bongos (really good, and also Caribbean food. Try the spicy shrimp plate or Desi plate, and get a side of Yucca fries or patacones.)
  • Oddfellow’s in Capital Hill. Good food in a nice, hip setting for very reasonable prices given the quality. Nice casual date spot. The mussels were good when available. You can go dancing afterward upstairs at the Century Ballroom, or get ice cream at Molly Moon’s, which is an over-rated, but good, local chain. I.e.: standing in line for 5 minutes to go there is worth it, but not for 20!
  • Kedai Makan is a Malaysian place in Capital Hill that people started raving about circa Sept 2019, so be prepared for long lines.
  • Dick’s burgers is the Seattle equivalent to California’s In-n-Out. It’s an old-fashioned take-out only place that’s often open until 2 AM with several locations around town, including Wallingford, Greenwood, Capital Hill, etc. The burgers are, in my Seattleite opinion, about as good (get the Dick’s Deluxe), and the naturally-browned fries at Dick’s are better-tasting than the chalky nightmare that is In-n-Out’s fries.
  • Beth’s near Green Lake is a divey institution for breakfast. The omelettes (which comes with hashbrowns) are large & tasty and the coffee is solid. It’s not fancy, but last time I ate there I thought it was pretty good value for the money!
  • The Burgundian in Tangletown near Green Lake has a good beer selection and solid food at slightly upscale prices (matching the higher quality of the food), but getting the chicken & waffles on Thursday for $5 off is a steal!
Dim Sum
  • Seattle may not have the great dim sum that you can find in Vancouver/Richmond, BC or the Bay Area, but we have some solid places. I like Harbor City in the International District (known as the ‘ID’.) I prefer Harbor City to the also popular Jade Garden across the street, but that’s worth trying too. Get there early (~10 AM or before) if you go on a weekend as it fills up quickly. Otherwise, put your name on the list and check back periodically. Harbor City has excellent shu mai (pork + shrimp dumplings), and also has good BBQ duck or roast/BBQ pork.
  • Try Mike’s Noodles, Schezuan Noodle Bowl, or Gue Mi Ky Gia for noodles or noodle soup.
  • There’s also several Vietnamese places on Jackson between 12th and 14th.
  • In general the International District is a great place to eat, especially for cheap, and is kinda the last place for a good, cheap, filling meal in Seattle…
Seafood in Seattle

These are pricier places, and sometimes popular, so check menus and reservations just in case!

Taylor’s Shellfish is another popular oyster place. I haven’t been in years, but Flying Fish on 2nd ave and blanchard (if they’re still there!) was good. They also have a place in South Lake Union.

  • If you like Chinese food, find a good Cantonese-style place and order some fish dishes there, like Ho Ho Seafood (open late!)
  • Molly Moon’s for ice cream in Wallingford and Capital Hill
  • Blue Bird creamery for ice cream (and beer!) in Greenwood and other places. It’s the less popular, but just as good in my unfussy opinion, alternative to Molly Moon’s.

Finally, a subject that I’m interested in!


There are a ton of choices for excellent beer in the city that, along with it’s Oregonian neighbors to the south, pioneered craft beer, especially the hop-heavy IPA styles.

  • Browuer’s is my favorite bar for atmosphere and excellent Belgian, American, and other beer selections. Try to time your visit to attend ‘Sour Beer Fest’ in May. It’s usually on a Thursday. Be warned that the service can sometimes be a bit snooty, and on weekends its often impossible to find a table, but you’ll just have to put up with it. The have a great whiskey list and solid Belgian food menu as well. Get frites or poutine if you need a snack to soak up those boozy Belgian Abbey-style ales.
  • The Fremont brewery is a great place to have a very drinkable beer outside in their dog-friendly beer garden. Stumble over to nearby Gasworks park to catch the sunset afterward.
  • If you find yourself in Greenwood, Prost is an institution for German beer and simple brats (split a 2 liter ‘boot’ amongst 3 or more of your friends!), with the slightly overpriced (especially for food) 74th St Ale House a good choice for a British pint, and has an older crowd. Keep walking north on Greenwood and any bar you find along the way should be alright (skip the divey ones, or make a point of picking them, depending on your preference.)
  • 2 Beers which shares space with Seattle Cider Company is an excellent choice for pub atmosphere in Georgetown/south Seattle.
  • South Ballard has a ton of breweries within walking distance of each other and is the perfect place for a beer crawl. It’s in an industrial part of Ballard, where you can still find street parking. Ruben’s is a local favorite, and also Stoup.

There are several microdistilleries now around Seattle, but the best is probably Westland distillery (now owned by Remy Cointreau) in SODO, which sells very good Scotch-style whiskeys. Split a tasting flight of ~4 whiskeys for ~$10 or something. They gave solid pours when I went, hence the splitting recommendation (you can always order another if needed!)

  • Mischief in Fremont is conveniently located, but not particularly impressive. Their ‘Reserve’ bourbon-style whiskey was the only one that tasted close to a ‘professional’ whiskey when I went in 2017, but things will probably improve with age. Skip paying extra for the very limited tour, and instead buy the tasting ($5 when I last checked) and ask your pourer all the question you would’ve asked during the tour (which is really just of the small distilling room next door to the tasting room!)

A weekend trip to Walla Walla for wine-tasting is nice. Closer are several wineries in the Bothell area near the St Michele winery.


Free and cheap museums and days

First Thursdays are free at many Seattle museums, including the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and its cousin the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM). The latter is also free for ‘families’ (the definition is up to you a guess, so bring a friend at least!) on the first Saturday of the month.

  • Pretty comprehensive-looking list: http://freemuseumday.org/sea.html
  • List organized by theme of museum (kids, culture, transportation-related): redtri.com/seattle/free-or-cheap-museum-days/
List of free Seattle museums and days

Other Landmarks

  • Get up close to the Space Needle by visiting the Seattle Center area, and ride the monorail if you want to feel like a futurist from the 1950s. Going up to the top of the needles is expensive and, perhaps, overrated, so don’t feel obligated unless you really want to. (Those with vertigo beware: the restaurant at the top revolves slowly.) If you want to go up twice as high for half as much, head up to the observation deck of the Columbia Tower a bit south of downtown.
  • St James cathedral near the Frye Art museum in First Hill is worth checking out if you’re in the area, and they hold choir and organ concerts sometimes too, and a wonderful Christmas Eve service with caroling before the mass. Get their early for that, though, as it very quickly becomes standing room only. Check their schedule of events and music if you’re interested.
  • St Mark’s Episcopalian church”’ north of Capitol Hill is worth stopping into if you’re passing by. Walk the labyrinth inside and check out the rose window, but skip the walking path outside on the hill which was littered with homeless tents & debris the last time I went. They also have a music & arts schedule.
  • The Seattle Central Library is neat both outside and, especially, in, with a great collection of books to browse, especially the comics/’graphic novels’ usually displayed in the 5th Street entrance reading room.

Sample Itineraries

Day 1: If it’s your first time in Seattle, you should do the obligatory Pike Place Market tour downtown (taking care not to trip over any homeless people around 3rd avenue and Pine, but since you’re from San Francisco you’ll be prepared), and take a peek at the Space Needle, perhaps walking down from the market to the waterfront to look at the islands, ferries and, on a clear day, the Olympic mountains across the Puget Sound. From there you could walk, or Uber, all the way down to the Olympic Sculpture Park and wander around there for a bit, and walk across Alaskan Way down Broad Street afterward to the viewing platform on the pier for more views of the sound and mountains. If museums are your thing, the Seattle Art Museum is very close to Pike Place Market. The Seattle Central Library is also worth popping into for its interior architectural design, especially the red plastic-y 4th floor.

You could then get coffee at Starbuck’s Capitol Hill ‘experimental’ roastery thing (instead of waiting in the long line at the first Starbucks in Pike Place, which of course you could also do), and lunch or dinner in Cap Hill at Odd Fellows or any number of places, like Kedai Makan, a Malaysian place that everyone is raving about. Capitol Hill is probably the best place to eat, drink, and go out, but it’s also very crowded and more like SF than any other neighborhood in Seattle, for better or worse :).

Day 2: If you get some nice weather, take a long walk/small hike at a Seattle park like Green Lake (3 miles around) or Discovery Park (more of a short hike) from the South parking lot, and hike down to the beach and lighthouse. Volunteer Park near Capitol Hill is also very nice if you want to stay closer to downtown, and has a conservatory which is worth popping into, especially to warm up on a cold day, tower that you can climb up, Asian Art Museum, and fancy houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Nearby is Lakeview cemetery where Brandon & Bruce Lee are buried, along with city founders, and has great views of Lake Washington (which are wasted on the current residents.)

Hiking, Camping, Backpacking

Planning a trip

Gear planning


Downloadable/Printable Maps

  • NatGeo has launched a free PDF map site! http://www.natgeomaps.com/trail-maps/pdf-quads
  • I used (and pay ~$30/year or something) Alltrails.com to download maps to my phone (using GPS on the phone + the map overlay is super convenient) and also print out a paper copy to keep in a zip lock sandwich bag while I hike as backup.
  • Green Trails has excellent physical maps, as are the National Geographic ones which you find in many ranger stations. Green Trails and Nat Geo maps are available at stores like REI. They’ll cost you around $10 apiece, FYI, hence why a cheap bastard like me uses the electronic ones from Alltrails for short trips. But, I like to buy the nice ones if I’m going to repeatedly go to an area, or am on a longer trip and want nicer detail and a whole view of a surrounding area.


Snow information

Day trips and Car Camping

  • Car camp (at established sites, May 1st – Nov 30th) and check out Mima Mounds.

Multiday Trips

Wonderland trail – Mt Rainier

The Enchantments

Lost Coast Trail

25 miles one way (leave a car): https://www.wonderlandguides.com/hikes/king-range/lost-coast-trail

Stetattle Ridge and Sourdough Lookout trail

There’s a ridge just behind Sourdough that is supposed to be an amazing hike; http://www.summitpost.org/stetattle-ridge/695049 6,728 ft gain

Read this guy’s account of it; http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7981587

Topo map here: http://www.willhiteweb.com/north_cascades/stetattle_ridge/sourdough_mountain_087.htm


Seam sealing a tent


Scholarly writing and essays

Sample bibliography for author: http://politics.as.nyu.edu/object/RussellHardin

Food, Drinks, and Cooking




Eighth Wonder, Inc in Ulm, Montana. Fancy filipino rice at http://www.heirloomrice.com. The purple-looking Mountain Rice should be the one Cheryl’s mom from Bontoc is used to for the good suman rice (cook in coconut milk then add sugar [I’ll omit…]) C’s mom’s family used the brown, less-tasty rice to make bubud rice wine, and the good-tasty white rice to eat, and the best tasting dark sticky rice for sugary suman (wrap in banana leaves, or just eat it.)





Holiday foods and cooking


Christmas Pudding



Cast Iron Skillet bread recipes



Sourdough starter from scratch: Use equal parts by weight flour and water (e.g.: 4 oz wheat flour + 4 oz filtered water (no chlorine), ‘feeding’ with the same once per day for 5 – 7 days)

Buying Beef

Extras to ask for

"Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”  ― James Joyce, Ulysses

These should all be thrown in for free, assuming they’re available, which they should be ’cause white people don’t eat them:

  • Offal: including the heart, ox tail (simmer for 3 – 4 hours and make pho, kare kare, or Korean ox tail soup), tongue (slow roast or braise and make into tacos or slice and eat cold. So good!), and liver (might be inedible in the sense that mine tasted so much like a farm/barn that I couldn’t eat it, and I generally love liver, but worst case you can give it to the dog!) Apparently the cheeks are good too! Ask for kidneys and you’ll probably get them (I did), but my understanding is that the USDA bans them out of ignorance.
  • Soup bones (usually come with some tasty meat on them too. Get a stew going!) Ask for the neck bones too for delicious soup.
  • Fat (the ‘leaf lard’ around the kidneys, known as suet, I believe, make excellent tallow): I ask for 10 (with a 1/4 cow) – 20 (with a 1/2) lbs of the stuff

Cuts of beef

See this butchering checklist to instructing your butcher IF you get a 1/2. With only 1/4, your options are limited to nil since you gotta split with a stranger:

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  • Also think about specifying the fat % of the ground beef. Ask the butcher that ‘typical’ is. I’d guess somewhere around 20 – 25%. I personally love fat, but might recommend 30% as a max, ’cause even at that level you get a lot of rendered fat in the pan, which is fine in saucy dishes like tomato sauce, but not as easy to deal with in ‘dry’ taco meat.
  • Your butcher might give you the option (for free or a small extra charge, like $0.70 / lb) to have some of your ground beef shaped into hamburger patties, which is really handy and well worth it considering your time.

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Individual Cut      Quarter/split half  Half Beef   Whole Beef   
Chuck Roast     10-12 lbs   20-24 lbs   40-48 lbs    
Rolled Rump Roast   3 lbs   5-6 lbs     10-12 lbs    
Sirloin Tip Roast   3 lbs   5-6 lbs     10-12 lbs    
Round Steak, or Stew Meat   3-4 lbs     6-8 lbs     12-16 lbs    
Ribeye Steak    2.5-3.5 lbs     5-7 lbs     10-14 lbs    
NY Strip Steak  2.5 lbs     5 lbs   10  lbs      
Sirloin Steak   2 lbs   4 lbs   8 lbs    
Tenderloin Filets   1.5 lbs     3 lbs   6 lbs    
Flank Steak     .5 lbs  1 lbs   2 lbs    
Skirt Steak     1.6 lbs     3.2 lbs     6.4 lbs      
Brisket     2 lbs   4 lbs   8 lbs    
Short Ribs  2 lbs   4 lbs   8 lbs    
Soup bones with meat    4 lbs   8 lbs   16 lbs   
Liver   1 lb    2 lbs   4 lbs    
Ground Beef     45-50 lbs   90-100 lbs  180-200 lbs      
Total amount of beef    84-93 lbs    168-186 lbs     336-372 lbs     
Approximate Freezer space needed    3 cubic feet    6 cubic feet     12 cubic feet

Advice from Splendid Table: http://www.splendidtable.org/story/how-should-the-butcher-prepare-my-cow:

First of all, you want the meat aged for about 3 weeks, and not in plastic. A lot of times they'll take the primal cuts, the big cuts of the steer, and they'll just put them in Cryovac and tell you that the meat has been aged. Aging dehydrates the meat and gets enzymes going to make it taste delicious. You want it hung. And if they do any kind of aging at all, they're going to know it.

Now, you're going to lose some weight with that, because they're going to have to trim off mold. Crustiness develops, and it's not harmful, but they have to trim it off. You're going to pay for weight and then it's going to be lost. 

If the animal is divided from nose to tail, you want them to keep for you the hanger steak, the skirt steak, the flank steak, the belly and the short ribs. You also want the shanks; the best stew comes from the leg of the animal, so you don't want them to skip giving you the shanks. You want those cheeks, the tongue and the liver. And the other thing is that you want to ask them to cut the chuck (the shoulder) into a seven-bone pot roast, a chuck arm roast. These are things you're going to cut up to make burgers, or you can just cook them whole. 

Then what you want them to do is dress out the entire top loin, because the top loin is where the great steaks come from. Dress out means to cut that top loin as a solid piece of meat with no bone in it, because then you have the option of slicing it into steaks or treating it as an entire roast, which could be stunning. If they're going to be freezing it, you want them to cut that into steaks 1 1/2 inches thick. Nothing thinner than that.

The rib area is the other area that's utterly prime -- you can have part of that cut as a rib roast, which could be a holiday treat. Then you could have the rest of it cut into thick steaks.

And you do want the bones. You want the shank cut into 2-inch thick slices across the bone. That is going to give you some of the most phenomenal stew you'll ever eat in your life -- the bone, the marrow and the meat. And you want the neck, because the neck is also going to give you phenomenal stew meat. 

-Lynne Rosetto Kasper

This was helpful too: http://www.chowhound.com/post/cow-butchered-929927?page=3, and including advice such as:

Be very forceful/clear about you wanting the the tongue, brisket, short ribs, bones, etc. 

I ask for the ground to be packaged into 1 pound packages. I ask for flank steak, flat iron cut, brisket, t bone, ribeye. I like the tail too. I usually get two oxtail packages from one steer. Femur bones cut for soup

I always made sure to ask for bones (for stock and for the dogs). Do go for the "cube steaks" if that's an option... they make great sandwiches and Chicken Fried Steak. Get the tenderloin, not the porterhouse steaks, if that's an option. I always asked for the brisket (they'll usually grind it if you don't ask) and to have the chuck cut into small roasts... I could always grind them, if I wanted, or cut into chunks for stew or cook as pot roasts... gives you lots of options. I always asked for 2" steaks, knowing they'd be 1" or a little more at best (for some reason, our butcher just wouldn't cut them THICK).

Food and cooking ideas

Splendid Table


Intro to the world’s great teas: https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/more-tea-for-everyone.html


Rice Beer

Filipino Rice Beer – Tapuy
Japanese Sake


Session beers



Sparkling Wine

<!– end list –>

[I]f you are going to even try to make it using a fermentation in the bottle, please get some sturdy champagne bottles that have a full punt (the curve at the bottom). They are designed to withstand an outrageous amount of pressure.

[Don't] ferment it to the full volume of Co2 that commercial sparkling goes to and you will have a much more successful time and it is relatively simple to do.

<!– end list –>

Although sparkling wine can be made from a variety of materials, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Riesling are the preferred grape varieties. It is best to use a good quality all-grape product for making champagne. [...] It is essential that the starting gravity be between 1.070 and 1.080 no higher. 

<!– end list –>

Carefully rehydrate one package of ***Lalvin EC-1118 champagne yeast*** following these instructions exactly: stir the yeast into 2 oz. (50 mL) of water at 100ºF (40ºC). Wait 5 minutes, then stir yeast thoroughly and gently into wine.
Siphon your wine into 30 clean and sanitized sparkling wine bottles leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) of head space at the top of each bottle.


American Whiskey/Bourbon
Bourbon mash information

<!– end list –>

Four Roses is famous for their 10 different bourbon recipes which uses 2 different mashbills and 5 different strains of propriety yeast and if you’re only passingly familiar with those cryptic 4 letter codes here’s a quick reference before we dig into the evening.

O = From the Four Roses distillery
B / E = The mashbill. B = 60% corn, 35% rye, 5% malted barley E = 75% corn, 20% rye, 5% malted barley
S = Straight whiskey
V / K / O / Q / F = The yeast strain


Seattle distilleries to try

This article looks GREAT! http://seattle.eater.com/maps/best-distilleries-seattle-alcohol (There’s also this one, with some overlap of the first)

Seattle Home Business rules
Home Business Rules
See also: Illegal Businesses
If you have a home business, you need to limit impacts on your neighbors.
What Is It?
You’re allowed to run a business out of your home in Seattle as long as it doesn’t interfere with other residents in the neighborhood. The home occupation rules in our Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) contain limits designed to minimize the impact your commercial activity has on your residential neighborhood.

What It Isn’t
This code section does not cover:

Illegal businesses in commercial properties
Bed and breakfasts
Marijuana businesses
Rules to Follow
Our ordinance requires that you:

Live in the unit where you operate your home business
Limit the number of your employees to two, in addition to you
Limit deliveries to your business to one a day on weekdays
Use only small signs to identify your business from the outside to discourage drop-in traffic
Limit signs in single-family zones to the name of the occupant, not the business name (for example Joe Smith, Attorney at Law, not Seattle Premier Attorneys)
In addition, your business cannot produce noise, odors, or other emissions that can be detected from your property line. You cannot change the character of the dwelling from residential to commercial. Our rules are slightly different for home-based child care programs. Bed and breakfasts are subject to different rules.

Tip 236, Home Occupations Allowed in Residential Zones
Tip 108, Regulations Governing Child Care Centers
Read the Code
Director's Rule 8-87, Home Occupations
SMC 23.42.050
If you violate the home occupation standards you could be charged penalties of $150 to $500 a day. Your fines can accumulate if you do not correct the violation in a timely way. We will also charge for inspections.
Opening a craft distillery


The WA license lets the craft distillery product up to 150 K gallons of spirits, and …

  • Sell spirits of its own production for off-premises consumption – limit 2 liters per day per person
  • Samples – maximum of 2 ounces per person per day – free of charge at the distillery
  • Spirits used for samples and off-premises sales must be purchased from the board
  • Requires MAST for any person involved in the service of samples

Alcohol server permits (WA ‘MAST’ permit class 12): http://lcb.wa.gov/mastrvp/mandatory_alcohol_server_training

Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST) is required by law for persons who serve, mix, sell, or who supervise the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption at liquor licensed establishment.

Class 12 is for those 21+, Class 13 for those 18 – 20. Class 12 allows you to…

  • Draw alcohol from tap and mix drinks
  • Perform duties included in the Class 13 permit
  • Manage the establishment
  • Conduct alcohol tastings at an approved locations with a tasting endorsement
  • At least one Class 12 permit holder must be on duty

Helpful info on what you can/can’t do: http://www.servercertificationcorp.com/state.php?statecode=’WA’

Washington Regulations for Bartenders/Sellers/Servers:
Happy Hour Laws: Washington state law does not allow the following types of promotions:
*Two for the price of one,
*Buy one, get one free,
*Two drinks for a fixed price, and/or
*All you can drink.

A business also may not sell (or offer or advertise to sell) alcohol for a price that is less than the acquisition cost. There may be exceptions under certain circumstances, such as when a product is discontinued or seasonal (after the season for the product) or the goods are damaged or have deteriorated.
Dramshop/Liquor Liability: No. Third Party Liability

Home Distilling

Buying a still
  • This one (30L, or about 8 gallons) with a built-in temperature gauge, straight from Portugal looks perfect, and is only $332 including shipping ($116) + euro exchange fees (~$9 from Paypal.)
Cleaning your still


To clean the inside, fill the boiler with a gallon of white vinegar [other sites recommend 50-50 water-vinegar, which might be safer on the copper], attach the column, and boil for about an hour. After you boil the vinegar for an hour, carefully dump out the the vinegar. It will be HOT- we recommend using Ove Gloves. Also, it will kill your grass - so dump it in your neighbors yard.

After you dump the vinegar fill the still with PBW, let is soak, then scrub the copper still with a toilet cleaning brush (one that is new and only for your stils!). Dump the water out and fill the still one more time with clean water. Scrub the still once more with your new still scrubbing brush and dump the water out one last time. For info on cleaning the outside, read this article: http://www.clawhammersupply.com/blogs/moonshine-still-blog/2847832-how-to-clean-a-copper-moonshine-still

Clean Your Equipment After Each Run

After a long day of distilling the last thing you might want to do is clean your still... However, if you want to own a safe, clean, still that produces excellent product then you MUST clean your still after EACH run. Put the mason jar down, pickup your hose and still scrubbing brush, and get to work. Trust us, spending 10 minutes at the end of a run cleaning your still is well worth the effort.
First, we recommend wearing a pair of oven gloves as the still will still be hot. Loosen the flour paste seal on the column by gently rocking it back and forth. Once the seal is broken and the column is lose - completely remove the column from the still. Rinse the column with clean water, and scrub the inside of the column with a carboy cleaning brush (these are the perfect size and work really, really well). Once the column has been cleaned, dry it off and place it in safe dry spot for storage.
Put on your Ove Gloves and dump your the leftover wash onto an area of your yard you don't care too much about. Fill the still with 1/2 gallon of clean water and scrub the still with your still toilet scrubbing brush. Dump the water out and then rinse it one more time with clean water. Dry it really well, and store. 


Examine the Copper Before Use
Before you transfer any liquid into copper equipment- physically inspect it. If you notice any copper salts building up, you must clean the surfaces before use. You can usually get away with a light white vinegar cleaning. Dump a bit of white vinegar into the pot and scrub it down really well with your still toilet scrubbing brush, then rinse it really well with clean water. If you don't have luck with this method you can do another boil session with white vinegar or use a brewing product called PBW

Similar, but slightly different advice (suggests washing with hot, soapy water before a 1:1 water:vinegar run): https://www.whiskeystillpro.com/blogs/news/17489613-how-to-clean-a-copper-still-inside-and-out

Operating the still
Measuring alcohol

Gravity hydrometer formulae

  • ABV = ABW * (FG / .794)
  • ABV = (76.08*(OG – FG)/(1.775-OG)) * (FG/0.794) — Based on Balling and
  • ABV = (OG – FG) * 131.25 — Simplified Dave Miller calculation
What Washington grows


Grains Washington grows

No one will be surprised to learn that Washington is the nation’s largest producer of apples. However, it’s in the red raspberry market where our state holds the largest market share. Washington leads the nation in production of twelve agricultural commodities. [Could make kirshwasser and a raspberry liqueur/spirit, as well as applejack!]

  1. Red raspberries, 90.5 percent of U.S. production
  2. Hops, 79.3 percent
  3. Spearamint Oil, 75 percent
  4. Wrinkled seed peas. 70.4 percent
  5. Apples, 71.7 percent
  6. Grapes, Concord, 55.1 percent
  7. Grapes, Niagra, 35.9 percent
  8. Sweet cherries, 62.3 percent
  9. Pears, 45.6 percent
  10. Green peas, processing, 32.4 percent
  11. Carrots (2011), 30.6 percent
  12. Sweet corn, processing (2011), 29 percent

– See more at: http://planwashington.org/blog/archive/whats-growing-in-washington-state/#sthash.cwRaeKZX.dpuf


Estate and Inheritance Taxes

New Jersey estate and inheritance tax

New Jersey Probate

Selling a home in Pennsylvania

Gift tax (and how it relates to estate tax)

Giving your home to your children


Running a business

Corporate Governance

Performance compensation and incentive structures

Equity compensation (RSUs, Options)

In general, I think Restricted Stock Units (with a dividend equivalent) are the way to go in employee equity compensation to best simulate owning common stock. Options are a ‘heads a win, tails you lose (and I get nothing, but don’t lose)’ form of compensation that may encourage employees to go for everything or nothing, and not prudently protect against downside risks of their actions.

Amazon famously figured this out early on, and apparently so did Bill Gates at Microsoft. The one thing that could be better about RSUs is the ability to delay taxes, which apparently Blue Leaf figured out how to do per the bottom of this primer on RSUs vs Options

Best Practices


Best practices to ensure integrity of voting: https://www.verifiedvoting.org/voting-system-principles/

Cumulative Voting

PLACEHOLDER: Is this a good idea?

Majority Voting

Chairman of the Board

In general, it’s a good practice to have the Chairman of the Board be a large shareholder and NON-executive, and definitely not the CEO. Exceptions would be those like Warren Buffett, or Jeff Bezos, who own such large chunks of the company and have such unimpeachable integrity. Clues to integrity include low CEO pay (Buffett & Bezos both take practically nothing, $100 K for Buffett and $83 K for Bezos, and NO stock options or other ‘performance bonuses’, taking success of their enterprises instead, and ‘free’ perks like a pleasant work environment. They are also candid and upfront about their performance, and highly skilled.

Mandatory Ownership of the company by Executives

All executives should own a piece of the company to ensure true alignment (in ordinary, common stock.)

Shareholder Meetings and Conference Calls

Written Q&A should be a thing


Capital Allocation

Share Repurchases

https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2013/03/14/questions-surrounding-share-repurchases/ A few excerpts from the above:

In order to come under Rule 10b-18’s safe harbor, a company and its affiliated purchasers, taken together, must meet all the following conditions:

1. Manner: all of the bids and purchases must be made through only one broker or dealer on any single day;

2. Timing: the purchases must not:

    (a) constitute the opening transaction,
    (b) for a security that, during the preceding four weeks, has an average daily trading volume (ADTV) value of at least $1 million and a public float value of at least $150 million, be made during the 10 minutes before the scheduled close of the primary trading session in the security’s principal market, and during the 10 minutes before the scheduled close of the primary trading session in the market where the purchase is made, and
    (c) for all other securities, be made during the 30 minutes before the scheduled close of the primary trading session in the security’s principal market, and the 30 minutes before the scheduled close of the primary trading session in the market where the purchase is made;

3. Volume: the aggregate purchases on any given day must not exceed 25 percent of the purchased security’s ADTV. “Block” trades typically will be included in computing a security’s ADTV. However, once per week, “in lieu of purchasing under the 25 percent of ADTV limit for that day,” a company or its affiliated purchasers may make one block trade of its shares without regard to the volume limit, provided that it does not make any other Rule 10b-18 purchases on the same day. Purchases made pursuant to this block trade exception will not be included in computing a security’s ADTV for purposes of Rule 10b-18 volume limits; and

4. Price: the purchases must not be made at a price that exceeds the highest independent bid or the last independent transaction price (whichever is higher) quoted or reported in the consolidated system at the time the purchase is made.

The safe harbor applies on a daily basis, and a failure to meet any one of the four conditions will remove all of a company’s repurchases from the safe harbor for the day.

Generally, companies attempt to comply with Rule 10b-18. Companies typically enter into an arrangement with a broker or dealer that agrees to implement the repurchase program according to the companies’ instructions and in accordance with the requirements of Rule 10b-18. All of the major brokerage firms understand the Rule 10b-18 requirements and implement programs accordingly.


401k plans

Highly-Compensated Employee rules


Computing, Coding and Software


Tableau date range formatting

BETWEEN CAST(current_date - interval '32' day AS VARCHAR) AND CAST(current_date - interval '3' day AS VARCHAR)

Sizing dashboards in Tableau
Creating dynamic axis labels
Box and whisker plot in Tableau
Embedding Tableau worksheets in a web page (like a Google Site via iFrame)
Fixing the data sources from another Tableau Server error
  • If you can’t publish from Tableau Desktop because you have a ‘data source from another Tableau Server’, you might need to right-click on a data source in your Workbook, then edit the Tableau Server connection, and then click ‘change Sign-in’ (even if it shows the correct Server!), choose the server, ‘Connect’, and if it says you have multiple data sources, click to modify them all. It might also say something about needing to regenerate the extracts, which you should also do (if you applied filters directly to the data source, those will apparently be cleared, FYI.) {F42341685, size=full} {F42341815, size=full} {F42341855, size=full}
Viewing Tableau Desktop files

* You can also just download the free [Tableau Reader](https://www.tableau.com/products/reader) if you just need to view Tableau files.

Tableau Extracts
  • [Helpful post](http://drawingwithnumbers.artisart.org/o-extract-where-art-thou/) to understand the different Tableau file types (*.tde, *.tbw, etc)
  • To ‘reset’ your extract (maybe it’s continually refreshing, or otherwise causing you a headache), click a worksheet tab, then first delete the extract via Data > <your_data_source> > Extract > Remove. Next, recreate it with Data > <your_data_source> Extract Data, choose where to save, etc.

Delete the old extract

Create new extract

Updating Tableau Server Workbooks on a scheduled from published Server Data Sources
  • Goal: to have your Server Workbook refresh on a schedule from a separately published Data Source (also on the Server) that you refresh yourself.
  • Steps: create a workbook for the data source in Tableau Desktop, making sure that the data source is an Extract (NOT Live), and that it gets published (the data source, NOT the workbook!) as an extra data source to the Server.
  • Create your metrics workbook and select your Tableau Server data source that you published above, then create you metrics from it. You data source will have a blue square symbol telling you that it’s live. Right-click the data source and instead tell it to ‘Use Extract’, which should change it to a double cylinder icon (see below in the top-left corner.) Then, publish the Workbook (NOT the data source.)
  • Next, go to Tableau Server, locate your Workbook, a create a refresh schedule as shown below: {F35198117, size=full}

Tableau Reference and Learning

Tableau Books

  * If you live in Palo Alto, [sign up](https://cpalo.iii.com/selfreg) for a library card.

Tableau URL Actions
Tableau Filter Actions
Creating rolling time period metrics

Per [this](https://community.tableau.com/thread/297841),

Create stacked bar chart with multiple measures


  • Drag your x axis to columns, drag Measure Names to colors, drag Measure Values to rows.
Tableau Dynamic Parameters


Tableau Level of Detail (LOD) expressions
Blending data in Tableau – How to combine data of different grains
Showing the Top N while grouping the remaining values together

  * I followed this link and it worked^^, but be aware that you gotta create ~10 different calculated fields/parameters along the way.
  * IMPORTANT: when you drag Sorting into Rows at the very end, you must change it to 'discrete' from continuous both to be able to then Sort on it, and to keep it to the left of everything else.
  * Also, the Sorting field never showed 1,2, it just showed 1, so I had to manually sort at the end, but otherwise this works perfectly.
  * [More info on Tableau's table functions](http://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/pro/desktop/en-us/functions_functions_tablecalculation.html) like INDEX().
  * This might work/help too (I didn't try it): https://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/pro/desktop/en-us/sortgroup_sets_topn.html

Link a web page into Tableau
Turn columns of values (e.g.: measure names) into a dimension


Adding information to the header/title of a Tableau sheet
  • Adding Total to Tableau Header/Title: http://kb.tableau.com/articles/HowTo/adding-totals-to-a-title (create a Calculated Field with formula TOTAL(SUM(field)) and drag it to the ‘Detail’ in Marks, then double-click the header/title and click ‘Insert’ and find and insert it where you’d like.
  • Add the most recent datestr to the Header: create a Calculated Field with formula *{FIXED: MAX(datestr)}* (it should show up as a Dimension) and follow the steps above.
Setting up Data-driven alerts in Tableau Server/Tableau Online
How to format mark labels
Get the max version of a given metric when you have multiple versions per datestr in Tableau
  • Per [this](https://community.tableau.com/thread/249093), you can created a calculated field to effectively filter a field/aggregation by the maximum version. For an example from Driver Incentive, let’s say I have a table with invalid_trips_version, datestr, incentive_type, and ‘[Incentive Fraud (USD) (m…)’ and I want to only return a time series of Incentive Fraud (USD) for the max invalid_trips_version for a given datestr + incentive_type. I can use this formula: “` IF {FIXED [datestr], [incentive_type]: MAX([invalid_trips_version]) } = [invalid_trips_version] THEN [Incentive Fraud (USD) (multiple-versions)] ELSE 0 END “` This says, ‘for a given datestr + incentive_type, compute the MAX invalid_trips_version, and if that equals the invalid_trips_version for a given row, return the Incentive Fraud (USD) field (to SUM up in a chart, say), otherwise put 0.
How to use the same Excel/Google Sheets file to create multiple data connections from different sheets in Tableau
Simulate SQL IN operator in Tableau
  • UPDATE: As of 2020.3 Tableau, the IN operation IS supported, so you no longer have to do the below!
  • Tableau doesn’t support CASE WHEN foo IN (….) yet, so you have to do something clunkier like this. The long list of things in a single " " string is the IN (…) stuff, and [pickup_airport_code] is the column being checked: “` IF contains("KUL,LHR, IAH, SEA, MCO, MIA, GIG, FLL, SFO, JFK,HYD,LAX, SDU , ORD, GRU, EWR, BOS, MEX, BLR, DFW, ATL, MSY, BOG,PHL, SJC" ,[pickup_airport_code])=True THEN True ELSE False END “`
Create multiple reference line targets per pane in Tableau
  • https://community.tableau.com/thread/189184
  • The ‘secret’ is creating your calculated field using ATTR around the dimension that you want to use to trigger the target. You can use ELSE NULL to NOT have a reference line for other dimension conditions. “` IF ATTR([Top_Airport_Label]) = ‘Top Airports’ THEN 0.0546 ELSEIF ATTR([Abuse Category]) = ‘cancellation’ THEN 0.05 ELSE NULL END “`
Make a Workbook to store all of your commonly-used calculated fields and parameters, and then just copy/paste them into new workbooks to save time


Tableau Tips
  • **Move chart line/bar in front of another in a dual axis chart**: https://community.tableau.com/message/203204 (right-click the axis of the chart you wanna bring to the front and click ‘Move marks to front’)
  • **UNTESTED**: Apparently you can [swap primary and secondary data sources](https://web.archive.org/web/20160521122429/http://dataanalyticshelper.com/exchanging-primary-and-secondary-datasource-tableau/) on a given worksheet by editing the .tbw file in a text editor. Make sure to make a backup before attempting!
  • **Create filter based on being < or > a ratio of the average of some value**: First, create a parameter called [> X * avg rate], and then create a calculated field called is_greater_than_threshold_times_avg_rate and define it as *[Spend Fraud Rate] > [> X * avg rate] * TOTAL([Spend Fraud Rate])*, making sure that it also says ‘Totals summarize values from Table (across)’: {F53437921}

  * Then, apply this field as a filter on 'True' (and Show the parameter.)

Create Dynamic Filters based on parameters

Use Option 2 from [this link](http://kb.tableau.com/articles/howto/setting-default-date-to-most-recent-date-on-a-quick-filter). Watch the video at the bottom. If you’re using the [Time Display] variable to dynamically group by day/week/month, use this formula to create a date filter that switches dynamically to either the last date in the data set, *previous* week, or *previous* month based on today’s date. (It appears you’ll need to create this calculated field for each data source you’re using, FYI.) “`

After creating the above field, drag it into the Filter and select ‘True’ in the filter box:

Alternately, you can create a date range, which I chose to do based on an integer Parameter called ‘Time Periods’, which is set to 24 by default. The formula for is_within_date_range below will ensure 24 time periods, regardless of whether you choose days (= 24 days), weeks (24 weeks), or months (2 years/24 months). “` [Time Display] <= {FIXED: DATE(IF [Select View] = ‘Daily’ THEN MAX(action_date)

   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Weekly' THEN DATEADD('week', -1, DATETRUNC('week', TODAY(), 'Monday')
   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Monthly' THEN DATEADD('month', -1, DATETRUNC('month', TODAY())
   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Quarterly' THEN DATEADD('quarter', -1, DATETRUNC('quarter', TODAY())
   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'All' THEN TODAY()



[Time Display] > {FIXED: DATE(IF [Select View] = ‘Daily’ THEN DATEADD(‘day’, -[Time Periods], MAX(action_date))

   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Weekly' THEN DATEADD('week', -1-[Time Periods], DATETRUNC('week', TODAY(), 'Monday')
   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Monthly' THEN DATEADD('month', -1-[Time Periods], DATETRUNC('month', TODAY())
   ELSEIF [Select View] = 'Quarterly' THEN DATEADD('quarter', -1-[Time Periods], DATETRUNC('quarter', TODAY())
   ELSEIF   [Select View] = 'All' THEN DATE('0000-01-01')

} “` Or, **create dynamic geographic aggregation**: create a parameter called ‘Geographic Aggregation’ with values ‘Mega Region’, ‘Region’, ‘Sub Region’, ‘GM Market’, ‘Country’ and ‘City’, and ‘Worldwide’. Show the parameter on the sheet.

Then, create a calculated field called ‘Geography’ and use it in place of your static geography field to be able to toggle between geography views: “` IF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘City’ THEN [city_name] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘Mega Region’ THEN [mega_region] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘Country’ THEN [country_name] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘GM Market’ THEN [gm_market] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘Region’ THEN [region] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘Sub Region’ THEN [sub_region] ELSEIF [Geographic Aggregation] = ‘Worldwide’ THEN ‘Worldwide’ END “`

<!– end list –>

  • Example*: create a Parameter called ‘Select View’ that users can toggle (‘Daily’, ‘Weekly’, ‘Monthly’, ‘Quarterly’, say): {F30568785, size=full} … and then creating a calculated field (‘Time Display’) with a formula like this:

“` DATE(IF [Select View] = ‘Daily’ THEN DATETRUNC(‘day’, [action_date]) ELSEIF [Select View] = ‘Weekly’ THEN DATETRUNC(‘week’, action_date, ‘Monday’) ELSEIF [Select View] = ‘Monthly’ THEN DATETRUNC(‘month’, action_date) ELSEIF [Select View] = ‘Quarterly’ THEN DATETRUNC(‘quarter’, action_date) ELSEIF [Select View] = ‘All’ THEN TODAY() END) “`

Create a **slicing_dimension** parameter

… by pasting in a list of dimensions that you want to ‘slice’ (color code in a stacked bar chart, or multi-line chart). Then, create a dimension called ‘slicing_dimension’ and paste in a formula (create it in Excel from the same list you use for your parameter) like this one, and then drag that formula to the colors field in your data (you can use double forward slashes // to comment out fields you’re planning on using, but don’t yet have in the data). Note that you gotta wrap everything in STRings in order to combine all those data fields into one single dimension: <code> IF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘Total’ THEN ‘Total’ ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘violation_type’ THEN STR([violation_type]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘violation_group’ THEN STR([violation_group]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘action_policy_decision_string’ THEN STR([action_policy_decision_string]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘action_reason’ THEN STR([action_reason]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘is_proactive’ THEN STR([is_proactive]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘last_action_reason_part’ THEN STR([last_action_reason_part]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘violation_type_detailed’ THEN STR([violation_type_detailed]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘is_mms_action’ THEN STR([is_mms_action]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘entity_type_name’ THEN STR([entity_type_name]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘is_truly_automated’ THEN STR([is_truly_automated]) //ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘content_media_type’ THEN STR([content_media_type]) //ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘creator_country’ THEN STR([creator_country]) ELSEIF [Slicing Dimension] = ‘privacy_label’ THEN STR([privacy_label])

ELSE ‘null’ END </code>

Creating a dynamic metric using a parameter (i.e.: one metric by many dimensions)

Create a parameter called ‘Metric Name’ and put in the metric names you want to be able to choose from. Then, create a metric called metric_name like the below. Lastly, add the parameter to your worksheet, and drag the metric_name metric to the y-axis as the metric. Toggle the parameter to select which metric to display! This is the exact same approach as ‘slicing dimension’, and you can also do it for ‘metric_breakdown’ by creating a metric breakdown parameter & dimension and dragging it to the x-axis for how to break out (into multiple charts) your metric charts. <code lang=’sql’> IF [Metric] = ‘Avg Lifetime VPVs’ THEN [Avg lifetime VPVs] ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘# content actioned’ THEN SUM([# content actioned]) ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘Lifetime VPVs’ THEN SUM([Lifetime VPVs]) ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘Lookahead VPVs (L7)’ THEN SUM([Lookahead VPVs (L7)]) ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘content_appeal_rate’ THEN [content_appeal_rate] ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘num_owners’ THEN SUM([num_owners]) ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘predicted_vpv_after_job_decision’ THEN SUM([predicted_vpv_after_job_decision]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘handle_usd’ THEN SUM([handle_usd]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘appeal_handle_hours’ THEN SUM([appeal_handle_hours]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘appeal_handle_usd’ THEN SUM([appeal_handle_usd]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘handle_hours’ THEN SUM([handle_hours]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘severity_weighted_vpv’ THEN SUM([severity_weighted_vpv]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘predicted_vpvs_per_handle_hour’ THEN [predicted_vpvs_per_handle_hour] //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘predicted_vpvs_per_handle_usd’ THEN [predicted_vpvs_per_handle_usd] //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘predicted_vpvs_growth_1d’ THEN SUM([predicted_vpvs_growth_1d]) //ELSEIF [Metric] = ‘irv_or_predicted_vpvs_1d’ THEN SUM([irv_or_predicted_vpvs_1d])

END </code>

Add a [total line to other lines in a graph](http://kb.tableau.com/articles/howto/dual-axis-bar-chart-multiple-measures)

 * Ex: add a global line to a line chart with mega_region as each line.  
 * in a table:[add a dual axis](/intern/wiki/Add_a_dual_axis/), next, synchronize the second axis by Ctrl clicking the right-hand axis: {F26820677, size=full} {F26820857, size=full} * [Show totals](http://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/pro/desktop/en-us/calculations_totals_grandtotal_turnon.html) in a table: ** Analysis > Totals > .... ** chart. *[totals labels to a stacked bar chart](https://www.credera.com/blog/business-intelligence/tableau-workaround-part-3-add-total-labels-to-stacked-bar-chart/). * Combine two (or more) [different measures into a stacked bar](http://kb.tableau.com/articles/howto/stacked-bar-chart-multiple-measures) chart. * ** Get the Week as a date**, size=full} *[Jim Dehner's answer](https://community.tableau.com/thread/234590), use *DATETRUNC('week', [Order Date],'Monday' )* which will return a date when formatted as m/d/y: {F26820011, size=full} * ** Pro tip**: If you include day in your data as a dimension, let Tableau compute week, month, and year.** Set the beginning/end date of the week** [like this](https://www.thedataschool.co.uk/lorna-eden/changing-weekday-starts-from-monday-to-sunday/). * How to add data refresh timestamp to chart title: http://kb.tableau.com/articles/howto/adding-data-refresh-time-stamp-to-view

Tableau Bugs, Gotchas and Problems
  • Don’t use the FLOAT or TINYINT data types in any Hive tables that you plan to use in Tableau. Tableau Desktop throws an error with FLOAT, and the new Tableau Server (in beta testing as of 2018-06-08) throws one for TINYINTs (BIGINTs and regular INTs are ok.)

  * Use ALTER TABLE to [change data formats](https://code.uberinternal.com/w/teams/fraud/risk-analytics/data-insights/hive-training/=how-to-change-the-data-t) very easily via Beeline or in Piper.

  • **Blank screen when clicking a view in Tableau Server while using Google Chrome**: “` *** This may be a result of Chrome add-ons too! Try disabling some if it continues happening even after you ‘fix’ it with the steps below** * Per Rajesh Namdev: "This bug has something to do with Chrome Cookies. Follow these steps to clear out.

<!– end list –>

  • Go to the menu option Show Full History in History menu of Chrome
  • On the left side of the screen click on ‘Clear Browsing Data’
  • Click on ‘Cookies and other Sites data’
  • Click on other check boxes as you wish !!
  • Click on Clear Data

Please note this will sign you out of most sites including One Login.

Launch Tableau and us know if you have issues.

Alternatively you can try Safari and see your dashboards are working." “` * **Unknown Server Error** {F30779777, size=full} The issue does seem to be related to one or more of the data sources being corrupted. I think the cleanest solution would be: 1. Open a new Tableau workbook 2. Create all your extracts and save them under a new name 3. Copy and paste your old dashboards over (this will bring all the associated worksheets and data sources). Right click on tab of dashboard -> copy -> right click on blank space in tab of new dashboard -> paste {F30779715, size=full}

\4. Switch to the new data sources 5. Close out the old data sources

There are several ways you could fix this but ultimately it comes down to completely re-creating the extract(s) then replacing the data source(s) – you shouldn’t have to re-create your worksheets.


  • **Unreadable float column** Tableau will throw an error message if you are selecting a ‘float’ type column with Tableau + the Presto connector. Root cause has not be identified yet but remember do not create table in piper with column type ‘float’ but use ‘double’ instead to avoid this issue. {F43023725, size=full}
Tableau Dashboards
Automating Tableau
  • It would great to programmatically set up new Tableau metrics workbooks not to mention publishing, etc of workbooks, so wardwill is digging into automating Tableau using Python:

  * Tableau SDK in Python: https://www.doingdata.org/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-tableau-sdk-an-introduction

  * However, per Jason Kim, tabcmd is really more for Server operations, and he recommend sticking to Python API tools to manipulate your own workbooks: jasonk said: "i think the other python APIs might make more sense. tabcmd is the command line utility that comes with tableau server and we use that for maybe 90% of its management. I'd recommend talking to rajesh namdev in my team if you have some scripts you'd like to look at"

  * Install with ```sudo pip install tableaudocumentapi```

Automating Tableau with Keyboard Maestro for Mac

Regular Expressions (regex)


GitHub Guides and Tutorials


Unix Terminal Commands



Windows 10


Data Sets and analyses

FRED St Louis Fed Economic database
  • Great source of data, and in downloadable formats. I heart the St Louis Fed. Here’s the state-by-state datasets.
US Census Data
Washington State data


Data and SQL

Python and Pandas for data science

Converting SQL to Pandas

<code lang=’sql’> SQL to Pandas select * from airports = airports select * from airports limit 3 = airports.head(3) select id from airports where ident = ‘KLAX’= airports[airports.ident == ‘KLAX’].id select distinct type from airport = airports.type.unique()

Multiple filtering conditions: select * from airports where iso_region = ‘US-CA’ and type = ‘seaplane_base’ : airports[(airports.iso_region == ‘US-CA’) & (airports.type == ‘seaplane_base’)] select ident, name, municipality from airports where iso_region = ‘US-CA’ and type = ‘large_airport’ : airports[(airports.iso_region == ‘US-CA’) & (airports.type == ‘large_airport’)]‘ident’, ‘name’, ‘municipality’

Sort: select * from airport_freq where airport_ident = ‘KLAX’ order by type airport_freq[airport_freq.airport_ident == ‘KLAX’].sort_values(‘type’) select * from airport_freq where airport_ident = ‘KLAX’ order by type desc airport_freq[airport_freq.airport_ident == ‘KLAX’].sort_values(‘type’, ascending=False)

Is IN: select * from airports where type in (‘heliport’, ‘balloonport’) : airports[airports.type.isin([‘heliport’, ‘balloonport’])] select * from airports where type not in (‘heliport’, ‘balloonport’) : airports[~airports.type.isin([‘heliport’, ‘balloonport’])]

Group by: select iso_country, type, count(*) from airports group by iso_country, type order by iso_country, type : airports.groupby([‘iso_country’, ‘type’]).size() SQL: select iso_country, type, count(*) from airports group by iso_country, type order by iso_country, count(*) desc Pandas: airports.groupby([‘iso_country’, ‘type’]).size().to_frame(‘size’).reset_index().sort_values([‘iso_country’, ‘size’], ascending=[True, False])

select iso_country, type, count(*) from airports group by iso_country, type order by iso_country, type airports.groupby([‘iso_country’, ‘type’]).size() select iso_country, type, count(*) from airports group by iso_country, type order by iso_country, count(*) desc airports.groupby([‘iso_country’, ‘type’]).size().to_frame(‘size’).reset_index().sort_values([‘iso_country’, ‘size’], ascending=[True, False])

Group by and SUM(): SELECT fruit, name, SUM(other stuff) df.groupby([‘Fruit’,’Name’]).sum() # Doesn’t specify column to sum. Will get multiple columns if possible to sum them. df.groupby([‘Name’, ‘Fruit’])[‘Number’].agg(‘sum’) # CAUTION: returns a series instead of a dataframe.

  1. to get DataFrame object instead (like in the accepted answer), use double square brackets around ‘Number’, i.e.:

df.groupby([‘Name’, ‘Fruit’])‘Number’.agg(‘sum’)

  1. If you want to keep the original columns Fruit and Name, use reset_index(). Otherwise Fruit and Name will become part of the index.


  1. What is this trickery with .to_frame() and .reset_index()? Because we want to sort by our calculated field (size), this field needs to become part of the DataFrame. After grouping in Pandas, we get back a different type, called a GroupByObject.
  2. So we need to convert it back to a DataFrame. With .reset_index(), we restart row numbering for our data frame.

Having: select type, count(*) from airports where iso_country = ‘US’ group by type having count(*) > 1000 order by count(*) desc : airports[airports.iso_country == ‘US’].groupby(‘type’).filter(lambda g: len(g) > 1000).groupby(‘type’).size().sort_values(ascending=False)

Top N: select iso_country from by_country order by size desc limit 10 by_country.nlargest(10, columns=’airport_count’) select iso_country from by_country order by size desc limit 10 offset 10 by_country.nlargest(20, columns=’airport_count’).tail(10)

Max, Max, Mean summary functions (they come out as rows in Pandas, so you can transpose with df.T);|: select max(length_ft), min(length_ft), avg(length_ft), median(length_ft) from runways : runways.agg({‘length_ft’: [‘min’, ‘max’, ‘mean’, ‘median’]})

JOIN (INNER = .merge(), left = LEFT JOIN, right = RIGHT JOIN, outer = FULL OUTER): SQL: select airport_ident, type, description, frequency_mhz from airport_freq join airports on airport_freq.airport_ref = airports.id where airports.ident = ‘KLAX’ Pandas: airport_freq.merge(airports[airports.ident == ‘KLAX’]‘id’, left_on=’airport_ref’, right_on=’id’, how=’inner’)‘airport_ident’, ‘type’, ‘description’, ‘frequency_mhz’

UNION ALL: select name, municipality from airports where ident = ‘KLAX’ union all select name, municipality from airports where ident = ‘KLGB’ pd.concat([airports[airports.ident == ‘KLAX’]‘name’, ‘municipality’, airports[airports.ident == ‘KLGB’]‘name’, ‘municipality’]) To deduplicate things (equivalent of UNION), you’d also have to add .drop_duplicates().

INSERT: There’s no such thing as an INSERT in Pandas. Instead, you would create a new dataframe containing new records, and then concat the two: create table heroes (id integer, name text); df1 = pd.DataFrame({‘id’: [1, 2], ‘name’: [‘Harry Potter’, ‘Ron Weasley’]}) insert into heroes values (1, ‘Harry Potter’); df2 = pd.DataFrame({‘id’: [3], ‘name’: [‘Hermione Granger’]}) insert into heroes values (2, ‘Ron Weasley’); insert into heroes values (3, ‘Hermione Granger’); pd.concat([df1, df2]).reset_index(drop=True)

UPDATE: SQL: update airports set home_link = ‘http://www.lawa.org/welcomelax.aspx‘ where ident == ‘KLAX’ Pandas: airports.loc[airports[‘ident’] == ‘KLAX’, ‘home_link’] = ‘http://www.lawa.org/welcomelax.aspx

DELETE: The easiest (and the most readable) way to “delete” things from a Pandas dataframe is to subset the dataframe to rows you want to keep. Alternatively, you can get the indices of rows to delete, and .drop() rows using those indices: delete from lax_freq where type = ‘MISC’ lax_freq = lax_freq[lax_freq.type != ‘MISC’] lax_freq.drop(lax_freq[lax_freq.type == ‘MISC’].index)

Export to different data types: df.to_csv(…) # csv file df.to_hdf(…) # HDF5 file df.to_pickle(…) # serialized object df.to_sql(…) # to SQL database df.to_excel(…) # to Excel sheet df.to_json(…) # to JSON string df.to_html(…) # render as HTML table df.to_feather(…) # binary feather-format df.to_latex(…) # tabular environment table df.to_stata(…) # Stata binary data files df.to_msgpack(…) # msgpack (serialize) object df.to_gbq(…) # to a Google BigQuery table. df.to_string(…) # console-friendly tabular output. df.to_clipboard(…) # clipboard that can be pasted into Excel

Plot in pretty bar (horizontal) charts: top_10.plot(

   figsize=(10, 7),
   title='Top 10 countries with most airports')


SQL Practice and Testing

For instance, you can use this query to prove how JOINs work (duplicating rows on duplicate JOIN’d column values):

SELECT * FROM Customers a
INNER JOIN (SELECT * FROM Customers WHERE City = 'Paris') b -- Note: there are exactly 2 rows in this table where city = Paris, so the result here will be 4 rows, not 2 as is commonly assumed by SQL neophytes.
  ON b.City = a.City
WHERE a.City = 'Paris'


  • The hubris and impatience one feels when dealing with somebody else who can’t figure out what it easy for oneself: video and meme.

Ward’s Business Analyst/SQL/Data Architecture interview questions

Excel questions

Q: How do you write functions in Excel, and can you give me an example of a function you’ve used recently, and what it does?|’=….’ Q: Used pivot tables? Q: VLOOKUP?|Write/describe the syntax and what it does (= VLOOKUP(. Any difficulties/shortcomings of the function that you’ve run in to? Difficulties/shortcomings: Can only select first column as the index column. The ‘default’ isn’t exact match, etc.

SQL questions

Basic shizzle

  • Q: How do I return rows ’employee_id’ and ‘job_title’ from a table called ’employees’, returning only employee records with last_name ‘Williams’?
  • A:

<!– end list –>

SELECT employee_id, job_title 
FROM employees
WHERE last_name = 'Williams'
  • Q: How about last_name starting with ‘W’?
  • A: WHERE last_name LIKE 'W%'

Aggregate functions Usually I skip this if I can safely assume the person is already a SQL guru, but if NOT, you might wanna ask…

  • Q: Ask them some question about SUMming things or COUNTing [DISTINCT] things. For example, ‘sum all sales & the number of unique customers purchasing a given book_id’ from a table that has sales transactions (individual purchase orders) with book_id, customer_id, and quantity_sold (the number of books purchased in the order.)
  • A:

<!– end list –>

SELECT book_id
    , SUM(sales) AS sales_total -- Bonus points for you as an interviewer if you ask them to re-label the column as 'sales_total'
    , COUNT(DISTINCT customer_id) -- Ask them to tell you the number of unique customers purchasing the book
FROM books
WHERE publishing_date BETWEEN '2014-01-01' AND NOW()  -- Or sysdate in Oracle, etc.  You can decide if you wanna make them use a function vs a hard-coded date
GROUP BY book_id
HAVING SUM(sales) > 1 -- Add this in if you wanna complicate things and ask them to include ONLY books with at least two sales.  There are other ways of doing this, like by using a sub-query and THEN filtering with WHERE sales_total > 1, but using HAVING shows l337 status.


  • Q: How does a LEFT JOIN work?
  • A: It returns all rows from the ‘left’ (FROM) table and only the rows that match (on the column you JOIN on) in the ‘right’ (LEFT JOIN) table. Nulls are returned for rows from the right table with NO match in the left table [make sure they say this. Ask what happens to these values if they don’t explicitly tell you.]
  • FUQ: If I have duplicates of a value in the left table (column A = 1 and 1 in two rows) and also in the right table (column A = 1 and 1 in at least two rows), and I JOIN both tables on their column As, what is my result set from that JOIN?
  • A: You’ll get 4 rows with 1 in the JOINed Column A. [WW: This duplication of rows is a commonly missed thing among SQL neophytes, and tests whether they really understand what’s being done in a JOIN. Some people get confused and seem to think JOIN aggregates the rows to two, or perhaps even one, rows in this scenario.]


  • Q: Can you explain to me what Primary Keys & Foreign Keys are, and why you might use them in a database?
  • A: [Something like…] Primary Keys uniquely identify rows in a database Bonus points if they add: they can be made up of 1 or more columns. Foreign keys are constraints on a column in one table that refer to a primary key column in another table. They restrict values in the [first table’s] column and ensure data integrity.
  • Q: I usually give them an example using the employees table and saying ‘if I have an employees table with employee_ids 1, 2, and 3, and a ‘paychecks’ table with a foreign key constraint on employee_id in that table (referencing employee_id in my employees table), can I insert a row into ‘paychecks’ with employee_id = 4? (The answer is ‘no’, unless you do something like first REMOVE the FK constraint and/or disable it (which you can do in Oracle & MySQL, and probably other SQL ‘flavors’ as well.)
Data Architecture questions

Designing a grocery store orders database

  • Q: [This is my favorite question, as it tends to separate the wheat from the chaff] Let’s say I’m a grocery store owner & I decide I need a database to track each order in. So, I decide to create a table called ‘orders’, which will have one row for each customer’s order, and I’ll have columns like ‘customer_id’, ‘time_of_order’, etc, and I want to keep track of what items the customers buy. I propose to have an ‘items’ column where I can store a string like ‘apples,pears,kleenex’ to track this. What do you think about the way I’ve stored this data? Is it ok, or is there a better way to do it (and why is it bad/good)?
  • A: This is bad because you shouldn’t stuff multiple values into one column (why? Because it makes it hard to query, basically, ’cause you gotta do intensive operations such as LIKE ‘apples’)
  • Q: Usually I follow this with "How about I have a separate columns for each item, so my table now becomes ‘order_id,pears,apples,kleenex, etc’"? Is this ok?
  • A: No, because every time you gotta add an item you have to add a columns (and/or you’ll have way too many columns if you have a lotta items.)
  • Q: So, how would you structure the table(s)?
  • A: Some normalized version like an orders table for order_id, customer_id, time of order, etc, and then a separate ‘order_items’ table which has one row per order_id + item_id with things like ‘quantity’ (one thoughtful interviewee pointed out that ‘weight’ is another important attribute, which spawned a great discussion on how to store that, and whether it should be stored in the same column as quantity, or two separate columns [the latter is the correct answer!]). AND a separate (bonus points, sorta) table for the ‘items’ with primary key of item_id and info about the items (like item_name, price (maybe), quantity in stock (maybe), etc.)
Visualizing data/Reporting
  • Q: We’re launching ebook self-publishing in a new marketplace (Croatia, say), and your job is to show one Powerpoint slide to our Senior VP that will give him the information he cares most about to determine how the marketplace launch is going. What would be on that slide?
  • A: Something about revenue or profit (cash rules!) mapped over time is the usual (good, I think) response. If they list too many things, I like to give them a hard time about paring it down to what’s MOST important to the exec. Bonus points if they suggest splitting things up by demographics (income of customers, age of customers, genre of book, etc.

<!– end list –>

  • Q: If you see a spike in [sales/profit/units], how would you figure out the cause of it in order to explain it? [I thought this question was kind of a softball, BUT then I got a guy who could answer the SQL questions, but couldn’t tell me HOW he would actually ‘dive deep’ (which is what he kept saying…) and slice the data to investigate his hypothesis for the spike. So now I love this question, because it separated him from the other guys that could do SQL AND explain how they would solve a real problem.]
  • A: They need to say how they would drill into the data at a more detailed level, by author, time period, book level, etc and they need to both suggest reasons (best-seller, seasonality) AND explain exactly how they would slice the data to figure out the answer. I generally ask some follow-up questions like ‘ok, and what if when you look at the data this way you see X, what does that tell you?’ etc until I’m satisfied that they could actually perform this analysis (assuming they knew enough SQL/Excel to effectively slice & pivot.)

(This next question brought to you by guest contributor soihahra@)

  • Q: Say you’re working in to support HR at your last role, and you need to come up with a way to quantify and evaluate everyone who is a *insert last role for candidate here*. Walk me through how you would go through that process, assuming your audience for this hypothetical metric is the VP of HR and people managers.
  • A: In other words, "judge people, in front of me." (lolz) This is actually a pretty good exercise, one that I believe every BA goes through at some point: observe, quantify, and report something that is fairly ambiguous for the purposes of supporting a business decision. This works best if you can pick something from their resume where the candidate has spent a reasonable amount of time at, and where the work is something less quantifiable than manufacturing. I’m not looking for a specific metric here, but rather the ability to walk through different ways of measuring and reporting quality of work, and being able to speak to the strengths and weaknesses of each proposed metric.
Invent/Business Thinkin’
  • Q: I’ve recently started asking ‘if you had to design and launch a new ebook self-publishing feature, what would it be?’ I give a preamble on the KDP Select program as an example. The idea in my head is to make sure these guys can think creatively like business owners beyond just doing SQL & reporting on data. Hopefully this question does this, but feel free to use better ones! (And post them here in this wiki!)
  • A: Something interesting that makes sense from a business perspective. Usualy candidates start by brainstorming several ideas, and then I choose one I think is interesting and ask them to explain in more detail how it would work.
John Hoole’s Cat Question

John Hoole created this question for certain interviewees. It seems very interesting, open-ended, could test multiple things, and I’ve used it for on-site Business Intelligence/Analyst types:

Enter The Cat Question: Q. Hypothetical: ebook self-publishers like to publish books with cat pictures on the cover — you can find books with cat pix all over the store. 5% of our customers hate books with cat pictures on the cover. Most of our browsing customers are not actually looking for books with cat pix on the cover. 5% of customers only want to purchase books with cat pix on the cover. How would you determine the financial impact of: a) banning cat picture books from Amazon? b) continuing the status quo of allowing cat picture books to be sold?


Hadoop is a distributed file system databased that’s highly reliable and redundant for high processing on commodity hardware.

  • The processing part of Hadoop. Appears to be programmed via Java. JobTracker keeps track of individual ‘TaskTrackers’, and these that map tasks onto a given machine (and ‘live’ on a given machine, I believe. I.e.: TaskTrackers are 1:1 with machines.) Tasks that fail are automatically redone. Data is usually stored on multiple machines as well for redundancy.
  • Hadoop is ‘batch-oriented’ for efficiency, but sometimes need to read-write data in real-time, so HBase does that. (Top-level Apache project with interface to distributed data for ‘incremental processing’, and can be accessed by Pig, Hive, MapReduce and stores the info in HDFS. Used by apps like Facebook Messages. Zookeeper stores info for different servers that need to work together.
  • Hadoop Distributed File System: scales out to petabytes of storage (say, 4,500 machines and 25 petabytes.) The NameNode oversees the DataNodes, which are blocks of data that live on individual (I think) machines, providing high bandwidth access.

High-level language that translates down into MapReduce (e.g.: a scripting language for MapReduce jobs.)


SQL-like language that can be used instead of Pig, and translates also to MapReduce (used by Facebook a lot, for example: 90% of their computations.)

  • Hive metadata catalog/store which is now available for all applications.

Machine-learning MapReduce applications


Helps run MapReduce applications to pull/push SQL data (e.g.: MySQL, Oracle) out of/into Hadoop.


Another alternative to Pig/Hive for getting data out of Hadoop


Scheduling MapReduce runs.


For streaming data inputs into Hadoop/HDFS


Provides standard Linux tool access to HDFS.


OCR text recognition

Try these:

Web Hosting

Ecommerce sites

Web hosts specifically for Python



Managerial Accounting

Financial Accounting


XBRL is a business reporting data standard. It is an XML-based accounting language for financial and regulatory (SEC) form filling out.

Real Estate

Renting a home

Security Deposit and wear and tear vs damage

From Washington state Tenant’s Union: http://housingsearchnw.org/pdfs/Guide_to_Damages_and_Normal_Wear_and_Tear_English_Oct_2011.pdf

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Ordinary Wear and Tear: Landlord's Responsibility         Damage or Excessive Filth: Tenant's Responsibility
Curtains faded by the sun   Cigarette burns in curtains or carpets
Water-stained linoleum by shower    Broken tiles in bathroom
Minor marks on or nicks in wall     Large marks on or holes in wall
Dents in the wall where a door handle bumped it     Door off its hinges
Moderate dirt or spotting on carpet     Rips in carpet or urine stains from pets
A few small tack or nail holes in wall  Lots of picture holes or gouges in walls that require patching as well as repainting
A rug worn thin by normal use   Stains in rug caused by a leaking fish tank
Worn gaskets on refrigerator doors  Broken refrigerator shelf
Faded paint on bedroom wall     Water damage on wall from hanging plants
Dark patches of ingrained soil on hardwood floors that have lost their finish and have been worn down to bare wood  Water stains on wood floors and windowsills caused by windows being left open during rainstorms
Warped cabinet doors that won't close   Sticky cabinets and interiors
Stains on old porcelain fixtures that have lost their protective coating    Grime-coated bathtub and toilet
Moderately dirty mini-blinds    Missing mini-blinds
Bathroom mirror beginning to "de-silver" (black spots)  Mirrors caked with lipstick and makeup
Clothes dryer that delivers cold air because the thermostat has given out   Dryer that won't turn at all because it's been over-loaded
Toilet flushes inadequately because mineral deposits have clogged the jets  Toilet won't flush properly because it's stopped up with a diaper

Buying a Home

Shopping, dealing, and brokers

Broker information

County assessments and records

County assessors
  • King County assessor ‘parcel viewer’: type in the address and write down the ‘parcel number’: http://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer2/
    • View both the District and ‘Property’ reports.
    • View the county’s valuation of the property, noting the separate land & ‘improvements’ (building(s)) values, and the other characteristics of the property.
Checking for liens and title problems
Searching for other permit and property records

Home Financing



How to do the most good with the least amount of money

  • All your significant charitable contributions should go to the most effective place they can, which tends to be cost-effective healthcare such as vaccines, essential vitamins, malaria prevention, etc overseas. Givewell.org’s Top Charities are the absolute best place you can put your charitable dollars. I can’t recommend them highly enough!



Macro stock market valuations

http://www.multpl.com/ for 1-year S&P 500 PE ratios and http://www.multpl.com/shiller-pe/ for Shiller’s 10-year ratio. Market-to-book ratio: http://www.multpl.com/s-p-500-price-to-book


Investment Reading

Investment books

Ben Graham
  • Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein: This book best describes the attitude of a successful individual company investor, and is filled with interesting bits about the life of arguably the world’s greatest investor, and unarguably the businessman with the highest integrity, Warren Buffett.
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America: Great condensation and organization of all the lessons taught in Berkshire’s Letters to Shareholders. Serves as an intro to corporate governance, financial statement analysis, the right attitude to investing (how to think about stocks and markets), and valuation.
  • Warren Buffett’s Ground Rules by Jeremy Miller: Insightful analysis of Buffett’s earliest letters to ‘shareholders’, his investment partners, in his partnership activities pre-Berkshire. Very inspiring and helpful for individual investors who can pick small/OTC companies.
Phil Fisher
Peter Lynch
Motley Fool
  • Motley Fool Investment Guide: Probably a good one to start with. The Fool has a lotta of good articles (and a lot of trashy link bait to filter out), and I cut my teeth on their advice early in my investing career before I’d even heard of Warren Buffett.

Letters to Shareholders

More Bezos wisdom
  • One of my favorite Jeff B anecdotes that describes his ferocious protection of the customer as told in this Forbes article:

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a senior Amazon brand manager from 2007 to 2011, recalls tense moments previewing television ads for the soon-to-launch Kindle. Early versions included a whimsical snippet where a Kindle-carrying reader transformed into a brave matador, tossed into the air by a charging bull. Everyone giggled--except Bezos. He hit the rewind button and silently replayed the matador scene. Then he turned to the group and adopted a grade-school teacher’s somber voice: “"I know it’s cute, and lots of people will think the bull is funny. But the customer right there is getting his ass kicked. We can’'t let him get hurt.”"

Other investment reading



OTC data

Mergent Manuals

By Industry

Insurance companies

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Most importantly, investors need to figure out whether employees get compensated based on volume or profitability. Volume-based incentives rapidly deteriorate underwriting quality, as we've seen in banking, mortgage lending, and insurance. In fact, WR Berkley's (NYSE:BER) management once jokingly replied that they were insulted when an analyst asked whether the company used volume-based incentives.


Return on Invested Capital: http://www.oldschoolvalue.com/forum/discussion/944/invested-capital-calculations Another definition: https://www.newconstructs.com/invested-capital-definition-and-formulae/

Price-to-Sales Ratio over time


Valuing Amazon by Price-to-Sales ratio

Damn I wish I’d kept my Amazon stock at Jan 2015 with Price to Sales ratio of 1.5: Y Charts has a great set of clean-looking metrics for this: https://ycharts.com/companies/AMZN/ps_ratio Morningstar: http://financials.morningstar.com/valuation/price-ratio.html?t=AMZN

Valuation screens

Try this one for ROIC: http://www.marketinout.com/stock-screener/stocks.php?screen=20_to_30&picker=roic&fundamentals=43=7&sorting=roe http://www.oldschoolvalue.com/stock-screener/cash-return-on-invested-capital-croic-stock-screen.php

Ben Graham’s Net-Net (NNWC) and NCAV definitions


Two different "versions" of net-nets have evolved from the teachings of Benjamin Graham in his two books "Security Analysis" and "The Intelligent Investor."

The first definition of net-nets involves comparing the net current asset values (current assets - total liabilities) (NCAV) per share of stocks against their share prices and buying them if the P/NCAV ratios are below two-thirds.

The second definition of net-nets, more commonly known as net-net working capital (NNWC), makes an attempt at "revaluing" NCAV with the following adjustments:

    +100% of cash and short-term investments
    +75% of accounts receivables I
    +50% of inventories
    [Ward's note: Buffett suggests also adding an 'auction' value to PP&E (= tangible long-term assets), perhaps discounted down to +15% of value without the ability to look up actual auction prices and estimate from that.]
    -100% of all liabilities

Both definitions of net-nets try to incorporate a margin of safety for the collectability risk of accounts receivables and the salability of inventories to a certain extent (the former through an arbitrary discount assigned to the net current asset value; the latter via specific discounts for accounts receivables and inventories).

Most deep value net-net investors tend to use the first definition of net-nets, P/NCAV, in their search for potential investment candidates, as the screening for low P/NNWC stocks is more difficult in reality (compared with low P/NCAV stocks).

Firstly, there is a greater likelihood of data services providers getting the calculation of accounts receivables wrong since a significant number of companies tend to lump accounts receivables and other receivables and may not provide the necessary disclosure to differentiate between them. If one incorporates all receivables (including non-operating receivables) in the calculation of low P/NNWC net-nets, he or she may be overstating the value of NNWC.

Secondly, simply taking 100% of cash and short-term investments at their face values may not be the wisest thing to do since the market values of short-term investments will fluctuate and not all cash are unencumbered and excess in nature.

Thirdly, the 25% and 50% discounts assigned to accounts receivables and inventories respectively may not be appropriate for all companies. For example, some companies may have customers which are MNCs or government-linked where the probability (and history) of defaults is close to zero, so even a 25% discount for accounts receivables is considered harsh. On the other hand, for companies which sell products with short lifecycles and shelf lives and are witnessing growing inventory days, a 50% discount for inventories may be simply too little. The second definition of net-nets, buying at less than two-thirds of NCAV tries to solve this problem by assigning a blanket 33% discount to all the current assets on the balance sheet.

Investment Ideas


Portfolio research and tracking

wardw123 @ https://www.stockrover.com

Berkshire’s holdings


Investment Performance

  • CURRENT: I use a simple XIRR Excel sheet based on cash in/out (assuming only ONE cash in date, and one cash ‘out’ date (= market value of total portfolio, including cash, as of current date).
    • It’s called Vanguard Roth IRA brokerage transactions AND Portfolio Performance XIRR ww2.xlsx on my Work ‘PERSONAL1’ folder. Look on the Invested_portfolio_performance tab as the table. All you need is that table!
  • DEPRECATED #2: Wikinvest portfolio tools: seems promising! https://www.wikinvest.com/portfolio
  • DEPRECATED: finance.google.com, or this to track performance: https://www.fool.com/scorecard, BUT it doesn’t have OTC stocks…, so you could use this https://www.google.com/finance/portfolio, BUT that doesn’t compute XIRR or, I think, really compare a benchmark very well (not sure about that, and not sure about dividends).
Inflation calculator


Taxable brokerage

  • 744 BRK.B (down vs S&P over life of investment by pretty substantial amount: -53.80% (+43.8% vs S&P’s total return of +97.58%)

Closed Positions

  • COH (loser by 35% vs S&P)
  • MVL (big winner by XX% vs S&P. The only reason this ‘past’ portfolio (pre-2016) was a net winner over the S&P.)
  • DIS (owned as result of MVL sale to DIS; should’ve kept it longer in hindsight, probably, but sold 7/2011!)
  • HOC (lose by ~30% vs S&P. Was -50% vs S&Ps -20% over same period)

Investment Tools


Idea Generation

Value Investment Shops

Opinions and analysis

  • Motley Fool
  • Seeking Alpha

Insider Trading

This is tracked in SEC Form 4 submissions. Make sure to distinguish between actual open market stock buys vs Options and RSU grants/vesting

Form 4
How to Read SEC Form 4 – Transaction Code Definitions

General Transaction Codes

    P – Open market or private purchase of securities
    S – Open market or private sale of securities
    V – Transaction voluntarily reported earlier than required

Rule 16b-3 Transaction Codes

    A – Grant, award, or other acquisition
    D – Sale (or disposition) back to the issuer of the securities
    F – Payment of exercise price or tax liability by delivering or withholding securities
    I – Discretionary transaction, which is an order to the broker to execute the transaction at the best possible price
    M – Exercise of conversion of derivative security

Derivative Securities Codes

    C – Conversion of derivative security (usually options)
    E – Expiration of short derivative position (usually options)
    H – Expiration (or cancellation) of long derivative position with value received (usually options)
    O – Exercise of out-of-the-money derivative securities (usually options)
    X – Exercise of in-the-money or at-the-money derivatives securities (usually options)

Other Sections 16b Exempt Transactions and Small Acquisition Codes

    G – Bona fide gift
    L – Small Acquisition
    W – Acquisition or disposition by will or laws of descent and distribution
    Z – Deposit into or withdrawal from voting trust

Other Transaction Codes

    J – Other acquisition or disposition (transaction described in footnotes)
    K – Transaction in equity swap or similar instrument
    U – Disposition due to a tender of shares in a change of control transaction

Read more: http://www.oldschoolvalue.com/blog/investing-strategy/sec-form-4-transaction-code/#ixzz4HcP22MmW


SEC Filings at NASDAQ

= http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/nwpx/sec-filings

Investing in startups – Angel investing and seed funding

Chances of Startup success

From this in 2009: "I spoke with an investor recently who told me that 1,500 deals get funded (presumably by VCs?) / year in the US, 80 (5.3%) eventually sell for $50 million and only 8 (0.5%) eventually sell for $150 million or more."

Also, Band of Angels says their track record (since 1994 through 2016; presumably many are still in limbo) was 277 deals ($231 M) had 10 IPOs and 55 acquisitions.

General Startup Investing Guides

Startup Lawyers



Convertible Notes

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Kyle Hill, Bona-fide aesthete.
Updated Sep 5, 2012
Typically, a convertible note has ten critical features;

    (1) Amount—which usually ranges from $25k to $500k and higher;
    (2) Duration—how long the note has to mature, which is usually at least 24 months;
    (3) Interest—the simple interest rate that will be accrued, which is typically around 6%;
    (4) Discount—the discounted price paid by qualified investors in a next qualified round, which ranges from 20-30%;
    (5) Conversion Cap—the maximum valuation cap that the shares can convert in the next qualified round;
    (6) Liquidity Event—the amount paid back to the investors in the case of an acquisition, which is usually 2X or 3X;
    (7) Maturity Terms—specifies what happens if maturity is reached before raising a Series A or other qualified round (usually the shares convert at a pre-negotiated valuation that is close to the cap amount);
    (8) Pre-Payment—allows or disallows the company to pay back the principal to the investor. If this is permitted, you will also need to negotiate whether or not to require prior consent from the investor before prepaying the principal, because this usually isn't what the investor wants;
    (9) Qualified Round—essentially sets the minimum aggregate proceeds that need to be raised in the next round of financing in order for the investor's note to be eligible for conversion. This is usually $1.5M or more (Series A). And lastly,
    (10) Type—the loan can be secured or unsecured. Most convertible notes I've seen have been unsecured.

It's important to remember that the conversion in the next qualified round shall be the lower of (i) a [discount%] of the Series A preferred stock share price, or (ii) the price-per-share assuming the Series A pre-money valuation was set at [cap amount]. For more info, here's a great resource on convertible debt fundraising: http://flwtb.co/Mer75t
Liquidation Preferences

Basically, be very wary of VCs/companies that give more than 1x liquidation preferences. Also, ‘full participation’ seems like a scam too (I think it means AFTER the VC gets the entire amount of ‘liquidation preference’ (equal to their initial investment if 1x, or (shudder) DOUBLE their initial investment if 2x, etc), the remaining amount is split up at the proportion of equity that the VCs (preferred) shares represent: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-liquidation-preferences-work-2014-3

  • Example: VC has 1x liquidation preference with (I think) ‘full participation’ and buys $10 M of company with $20 M post-money valuation, and therefore owns 50% of the company. Company doubles in value to $40 M and is sold. VC first takes out its initial 1x investment of $10 M, leaving $30 M left. BUT, VC also gets 50% of that, or $15 M, so VC takes home $25 M, leaving only $15 M for common stock shareholders. They gained 50% on their investment (1.5x), but the VC gained 150% (2.5x).
Startup Equity guide for employees

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Learn the three standards that define Startup Equity and three questions to ask to know if you have the real thing. 
1. Ownership - “Can the company take back my vested shares?”
2. Risk/Reward - “What information can you provide to help me evaluate the offer?” [how many shares are outstanding (e.g: what % of the company will I own)? What are the liquidation preferences of Preferred shareholders?]
3. Tax Benefits - “Is this equity designed for capital gains tax rates and tax deferral?” [WW: Examples of equity with tax benefits include Incentive Stock Options (ISOs), Restricted Stock + 83(b) election, Early Exercise NQSO + 83b election]


Wilderness skills


Catching prawns in prawn trap (basket)



Wattle and daub aka mud hut


Making lye from ashes

Use the method described here, which is essentially just running (soft) water through (hard)wood ashes, and perhaps concentrating the resultant ‘lye’ (really potash lye, potassium hydroxide, vs the store-bought sodium hydroxide lye): https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/how-to-make-soap-from-ashes-zmaz72jfzfre

Here’s how I did it (CAUTION: lye is caustic and will burn you and can corrode things, like your clothes, so wear safety goggles and gloves/long sleeves to be completely safe. Lye is chemically basic, so keep a weak acid like vinegar nearby in to dump on any that you get on your skin, and/or have a sink handy to rinse it off):

  1. Burn a bunch of hardwood (soft woods like pine apparently don’t make good soap/lye) in your fireplace and collect the ashes over time.
  2. Take a large vessel with a small hole in it that the lye will run out from. I used a ~3-5 gallon ceramic planting pot with a small hole in the bottom, and set it on top of a smaller ceramic planting pot with NO hole in it. (Don’t use any material that lye would corrode, like aluminum. Plastic is ok too to store your lye in afterward.)
  3. First, layer some rocks in the bottom of your large pot, which will keep the hole at the bottom from getting clogged up later. Then, layer on top of that a few inches of straw, which will keep the ash above in place. I used handfuls of small sticks since I didn’t have straw.
  4. Next, dump your dry wood ash on top of the straw layer all the way to the top of your vessel.
  5. Then, slowly pour tap water (or let rain soak it) over the top of the ash evenly, until its saturated and starts to drip out the bottom hole. Be patient here as you don’t want to use too much water and end up with really diluted lye. I poured about a 1/2 gallon of water through my ~2 gallons (by volume) of ash, which soaked the ash through, but didn’t result in any runoff, and then poured some more water until about a pint or so of runoff poured into my smaller pot.
  6. Once you collect enough of this lye water, you could pass that same water through the ash again to try and concentrate it.
  7. Now, test your lye for strength by dropping an egg into it. The egg should float about halfway up in the lye solution, ideally.
  8. I couldn’t get my lye strong enough to float the egg at all, even by re-running it through, so I ‘freeze distilled’ it by pouring the lye water into a plastic food container (label it poison and DON’T reuse for food), closing a lid on it, and freezing it in my freezer (at 0 degrees F) for a couple hours, then scooping out and discarding the ice portion (which will contain mostly water, leaving more concentrated lye solution) with a stainless steel spoon (wash it well after if you’re gonna eat off it later!) This reduced the volume by about half, and was sufficient to float the egg about 1/2" above the surface. I probably should’ve condensed it further, but I called it good at this point.
  9. Now, make soap with your lye water! The trick will be to balance the right about of (unknown strength) lye with your fat of choice. I used beef tallow that I had recently rendered from a 1/4 cow purchase. We’ll see if my soap smells beefy after fully curing…

I’ll update this later with my soap ‘recipe’ once I get it right.

Making beef tallow

  • This is a good overview for how to render out beef tallow.
  • When I make mine, I cut up about 10 pounds of beef fat into ~1" chunks (trim off any meat still on there), dump the pieces into my dutch over, and leave the pot in the oven at around ~240 F for 12 – 24 hours (or set it on your stove burner at the lowest setting overnight.) Then, strain the fat through metal mesh into a large Pyrex measuring bowl (say, 2 quart). You can either discard the solid bits, or if they still look like they have fat on them, add them back to the dutch oven and render some more and repeat.
  • Pour the liquid fat from your Pyrex into wide-mouthed (for easier scooping) pint (most ergonomic) or quart-sized Mason jars, or (even better, really, since they freeze and stack nicely) clear plastic food containers: 16 oz, or 32 oz).
  • 10 lbs of solid beef fat makes about 1 gallon (= 4 quart-sized containers) of tallow.
  • Now you can make pemmican like the American Indians did!

Storing your tallow

  • Keep one jar near the stove for cooking where it’ll keep for at least a month or so (worst case you’ll eventually get some mold near the top if your kitchen is warm and wet, which you can wipe away with a paper towel), and the rest in the fridge or freezer (I do the latter, but I hear it’ll keep for at least a year in the fridge.) I’ve never had mine go rancid when sitting out, but I live in a moderate climate and use up my tallow in relatively short order :). Throw it in the fridge if it’s hot out or if you’re going to be out of town for a while.

Heat and fuel

Types of fuels and heaters


From this helpful article:

At least do the following: (1) bolt your house to its foundation, (2) strengthen your cripple wall, (3) install flexible connections on all your gas appliances and make sure the main shut-off valve can be turned off quickly in an emergency, (4) secure your water heater, and (5) make sure that large pieces of furniture or large ceiling fixtures won’t collapse on anyone in bed. This protects you against a catastrophic collapse of your house, and against fire or serious injury.


Gas Shutoff

PSE: https://pse.com/SAFETY/NATURALGASSAFETY/Pages/Gas-Shut-Off.aspx

Amateur Radio

How to get started in ham/amateur radio

Getting licensed

  1. ‘No-Nonsense’ Study guides from KB6NU
    1. Technician class guide
    2. General class guide (dated 2011, but probably still fine!)
    3. Amateur Extra class guide
  2. Practice tests (you need 26/35 question to pass each of the first two. I’m gonna try to pass BOTH the Technician (1st) and General (2nd) exams in one sitting): http://aa9pw.com/
  3. Find and register for an exam session near you (make sure to ‘Register’, most VE-administered exams are $15 CASH) here: http://www.arrl.org/exam_sessions/

Phonetic alphabet

Equipment and software

  1. While you’re waiting to get licensed, order something like the Baofeng UV-5R (any ‘version’ of it) for a good ‘starter’ hand-held radio. They’re about $25-$30. You’ll want a good USB programming cable too (Prolific driver is apparently what you want with the cheapo USB cables I bought: http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Drivers.php), and
  2. you’ll want to use the CHIRP software instead of the (apparently) crappy Baofeng software.

Making contacts – communicating



Here’s one in Seattle I actually heard an ID signal from:

Out freq           In freq            Tone out      Tone in
444.42500     449.42500     141.3 PL     141.3 PL     WW7SEA         Queen Ann Mixed Mode*

#   Output      Input       Tone Out    Tone In     Callsign    Description
100 146.82000   146.22000   103.5 PL                W7LED       Mike n Key ARC (Tiger Mtn.)*
101 441.55000   446.55000   103.5                   W7WWI       Cougar Mtn [Sea-Tac Repeater Association]*
102 440.52500   445.52500   141.3 PL    141.3 PL    WA7UHF      Beacon Hill Mixed Mode
103 147.08000   147.68000   103.5 PL    103.5 PL    W7WWI       SeaTac Repeater Association*
104 442.87500   447.87500   141.3 PL    141.3 PL    WA7UHF      Capitol Hill Mixed Mode
105 444.42500   449.42500   141.3 PL    141.3 PL    WW7SEA      Queen Ann Mixed Mode*

* I have heard traffic here.

Satellite communication

About radio and its technology

Radio waves and spectrum

Build a radio

Radio scanners

Intro: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/radio-scanner.htm

Voice encryption

About: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_voice

Fun stuff – Miscellaneous


Masonic history

Origins of Freemasonry (in Scotland, circa 1599): http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161209-secret-history-of-the-freemasons-in-scotland


Ski Gear

  • Ski sizing chart: https://www.evo.com/guides/how-to-choose-skis-size-chart (Choose length between your chin & top of your head. Longer = better ability. If you’re 6′, 170 – 190 cm, closer to 170 cm for beginner/intermediate (greens/blues.) Width of ~85-90 mm might be good for the generally packed/groomed snow trails.)

Society, Human Welfare and Politics

Wise quotes

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (1135–1204), commonly known as Maimonides, said: “Teach thy tongue to say I do not know, and thou shalt progress.”

Standards of Living


Feelings and Sentiment




Rent vs Buy home

Food, Drink and Nutrition

How we spend our food budget and calories
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-choices-health/food-consumption-demand/food-away-from-home.aspx
  • According to this, Americans between 2007 – 2008 consumed 65 – 72% of their daily calories from ‘home supplied’ foods. Per this, 57.2% of food spending is in the home ($3,008 of the $7,023 dollars were spent on eating out — 42.8%.) This suggests food cooked at home costs 0.88 – 0.79 vs 1.22 – 1.53, so eating out costs between 1.22/0.88 – 1.53/.79 = 1.39 – 1.92 times as much per calorie as eating at home (39% – 92% more.) So, if all meals were eaten at home, on average, Americans might save between (3008 – $3008/1.39) to 3008 – $3008/1.92 = $844 – $1441 per year, or 12 – 20.5% of their food budget.

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The percentage of daily energy consumed from home food sources and time spent in food preparation decreased significantly for all socioeconomic groups between 1965–1966 and 2007–2008 (p ≤ 0.001), with the largest declines occurring between 1965 and 1992. In 2007–2008, foods from the home supply accounted for 65 to 72% of total daily energy, with 54 to 57% reporting cooking activities. The low income group showed the greatest decline in the proportion cooking, but consumed more daily energy from home sources and spent more time cooking than high income individuals in 2007–2008 (p ≤ 0.001).

US adults have decreased consumption of foods from the home supply and reduced time spent cooking since 1965, but this trend appears to have leveled off, with no substantial decrease occurring after the mid-1990’s. Across socioeconomic groups, people consume the majority of daily energy from the home food supply, yet only slightly more than half spend any time cooking on a given day. Efforts to boost the healthfulness of the US diet should focus on promoting the preparation of healthy foods at home while incorporating limits on time available for cooking.


Politics and Voting

Washington State politics

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." – Sir Ernest Benn (sp?)

Legislative calendar and key dates
Contacting your lawmakers
WA State Reps

=======District 43 (includes Wallingford)======= Reps: Nicole Macri (D) [No email given. Leg Assistant is Curtis.Knapp@leg.wa.gov]& Frank Chopp (D) (as of May 2017. Check here for the latest.)

  • Rep Macri sits on these committees:
    • Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs (Vice Chair)
    • Health Care & Wellness (Vice Chair)
    • Capital Budget
  • Speaker of the House Rep Chopp sits on these: Rules (Chair)

Senator: Jamie Pederson

US Federal Congressional Politics

Contacting your Federal congresspeople
Naughty and Nice List

I don’t trust many politicians, and will start tracking whom can be trusted and whom can’t based on whether and when they have integrity.

Unknown affiliation
  • Trust: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell stood up for letting markets function by opposing ‘surge pricing’ in ride-sharing, and wanted to actually allow taxis to be more competitive with Uber by loosening restrictions. He also explained the economic reasoning nicely and straight-forwardly.
  • Can’t trust: John Conyers, for playing politics with the Trevon Martin thing (wearing a hoody into congress, when no one’s supposed to wear a hat, just to get thrown out to score political points. Just listen to him talk for 5 minutes and you’ll feel manipulated & dirty.)
  • Mixed bag/unsure: Keith Ellison: he gets integrity points for swearing on the Qu’ran, but loses some for berating Wells Fargo CEO over the fake accounts thing without even attempting to get any useful information (most congressional hearings seem to be shaming contests, unfortunately.) I’m also suspicious of him because Michael Moore is a huge fan. Alan Dershowitz (very pro-Israel, but also a libertarian somewhat) hates him because he (apparently) lied about his friendship with known bigoted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
  • Mostly trustworthy: Bernie Sanders, in the sense that he has major integrity, but I think he has some bad economic ideas (but I’d kinda trust him anyway to be smart, although that could be a bad idea.)
  • Total trust: Barack Obama is probably the most qualified man for President in 100+ years, or at least 50.

Tom Campbell of California sounds like a hero to me, and pretty much everything I want in a politician. Socially liberal, libertarian-leaning, fiscally-conservative, a fantastic problem-solver, and honest, courageous, and forthright. He ran formerly as a Republican (unfortunately for humanity, he was defeated in US Senate races), but announced that he would leave the party if it elected Trump, which he did. What a man! Vote for him if you ever get the chance, regardless of your party!

  • Can’t trust: clearly, Trump, Pence, and sadly Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel (sp)
    • Jeff Sessions: From his wikipedia page: "In a May 2006 floor speech, he said, “Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society.” [He] has advocated for expanded construction of a Southern border fence."
  • So foolhardy and a liar/misrepresenter on most issues as not to be trusted (climate skeptic, anti-planned parenthood & anti-net neutrality, etc) Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, who vented frustration over Michael Flynn receiving payments from a Russian-backed group.
  • Might be trustworthy:

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Sen Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) came out against the measure Saturday evening in a post on the blogging site Medium. Flake, a longtime opponent of the Muslim ban touted by Trump, said the administration is right to be concerned about national security but objected to the measure for broadly blocking those who already have gone through the immigration process.

“It’s unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry,” Flake said in his post. “Enhancing long term national security requires that we have a clear-eyed view of radical Islamic terrorism without ascribing radical Islamic terrorist views to all Muslims.”

Some conservatives worried that denying entry to permanent residents and green-card holders could violate the Constitution. Many worried privately that the order will face significant challenges in court. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was among the few GOP members to air his concerns publicly. Amash posted on Twitter that the order “overreaches” and “undermines” the Constitution.

“It’s not lawful to ban immigrants on basis of nationality,” he tweeted. “If the president wants to change immigration law, he must work with Congress.”
  • Often trust-worthy: John McCain seems to be a stand-up guy, and helped correct some government excesses like poor contracts bidding, but he makes some questionable, for me, positions on social issues.

Whig Party

Overview of Whigs and Whiggism

Read F.A. Hayek’s Why I Am Not a Conservative to understand what Whiggism is all about (essentially: individual freedom, progressivism, tolerance, and skeptical rationalism with an admission of our uncertainty and need to adapt to changes in our knowledge.)

Modern Whig Party (American)

Gettin’ Whiggy with it!

Whig Party (UK)

Voting and Contacting Elected Representatives

[T]hat insidious and crafty animal, vulgarly called a statesman or politician, whose councils are directed by the momentary fluctuations of affairs. – quoted by F.A. Hayek in Why I Am Not A Conservative from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, I, 432.

VoteSmart – Campaign Finance and tracking political contributions
Civic Education
Washington State Civic Education
Districting and Gerrymandering
Finding and tracking legislation

This looks useful too for tracking legislation: https://legiscan.com/WA/bill/SB6379/2015

WA State Legislation
Federal legislation

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class. – Lord Acton in Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, ed. H. Paul (London 1913), p. 73, via F.A. Hayek’s Why I Am Not a Conservative

Finding and contacting your elected officials

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  1. Put Your Name and Address at the Top of Message.
  2. Humanize Your Message: This is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your e-mail makes an impact. […I]t is this information that separates one’s message from the standardized, bulk messages drafted by interest groups. These messages are more likely to be read than simply tallied.
  3. Be Brief.
  4. Be Clear About Your Position: concrete, actionable item, e.g., "I would like you to support H.R. 100."
  5. Make Your Message Timely: Send your message when the legislation is being considered. Your message is worthless is it arrives after a critical vote. Look to APA to keep you informed about the timing of critical stages in the legislative process.
  6. Don’t "Flame."
  7. Avoid Attachments.
  8. Don’t Become "Spam."
  9. Establish Your Credibility: Explain if you are an expert in some area. Also, do not shy away from saying that you are either a personal supporter or a party supporter (but never imply that because you voted for somebody or contributed money to their campaign that they owe you a vote).
  10. Don’t Lie.
  11. Don’t cc Everybody: Resist the urge to send a copy of your message to every member of Congress. You will persuade no one and annoy everybody. A legislative office wants to know that you have appealed to them for specific action.
  12. Proofread Your E-mail.

Find addresses for your representatives in Congress in APA’s Legislative Action Center.

Washington state-level officials
Washington Federal officials
Automatic Voter Registration


Salaries of elected officials
State officials comparison

https://ballotpedia.org/Comparison_of_state_legislative_salaries, WA state clocks in at $45,474/year with per diem of $120/day

Recommended Reading

Already read
  • See ‘Words of Ward’ post of 25 books to read. Specific to government including Nudge for policy, microeconomics texts.

Using Data in Government

Evidence-based Policy

Background and some key takeaways: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_policy

Open Government organizations



Indiana and governor Mike Pence seem to be the model for this:



With support from prominent Utah elected officials and community organizations, students will formally ask all 273 local governments in Utah to adopt the following five best practices in support of local government openness.

1.    Local governments should establish a dedicated open government webpage, providing a searchable repository for all public information, accessible in three clicks or less.

2.    Online information needs to be collected, generated and maintained in a digital form and made available on the open government webpage in a timely way.

3.    All electronic communications made with government supplied equipment, including emails and instant messages, should be considered public records.

4.    Elected officials and senior administrators should post their schedules publicly, maintain open settings on social networking sites and commit to a culture of transparency.

5.    Governmental bodies should make all public meetings as open as possible by posting agendas and meeting materials in advance, streaming live meeting audio or video, posting recordings within 48 hours and allowing remote participation.

The complete list of the five transparency best practices for local governments from the Utah Transparency Project is available here.
Washington State data


Washington State office of statistics:

Washington State Budget summary data

Social Problems and Solutions






  • Great*, concise, readable summary of macro is Tim Harford’s ‘The Undercover Economist strikes back’

*I definitely do not have the credentials to judge the quality of Harford’s macroeconomic advice, but he seems to be even-handed in his treatment of things, and I trust him from the tone to at least be providing something close to a ‘consensus’ view of macro. But again, I’m really not qualified to judge…

Tax Policy

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[F]our objectives of tax policy: simplicity, efficiency, fairness, and revenue sufficiency. 
  • Economists (at least those of the classical liberal school in the US) seems to dislike both income & wealth taxes, including estate taxes, as discouraging to economic growth and accumulation of capital. Instead, they like progressive consumption taxes. (Although, to be honest, why saving should be preferred to consumption is not entirely clear to me at any objective level, but if the goal is to build a wealthy society and the expense of consumption, I can understand, and the saver (read: miser) in me supports this.) The idea is actually pretty simple: government has you give them proof of your income (which they have today) minus your savings (which presumably your financial institutions could send you & them as easily as the already do your income), and the difference is assumed to be your consumption, which you pay progressively higher rates on, including a large deduction for all, say, $30,000 per family. Thus, people only get taxed essentially on their standard of living, not their income or wealth, and being productive and accumulating (presumably productive) capital is also not discouraged.

One difficulty would seem to be the single year nature of taxes. What if I make a big purchase in year 1 for a durable good like a car, house, or even refrigerator or TV that I plan to use for many years? Is it fair to tax me at a high rate on that in one year vs, say, eating out a fancy restaurants spread out over a number of years? Why should spending an extra $10,000 in one year be taxed at a higher rate than $1,000 over 10 years? Maybe there’s some ‘smoothing’ that could be done to avoid having to game this system through timed purchases, especially considering beneficial Keynesian effects of spending in a recession/depression. The nature of relatively constant income (with exceptions of capital gains realizations, bonuses, and other ‘windfalls’) usually avoids this issues with income taxes. Perhaps part of the solution is more gradual (and more numerous) marginal rates. E.g.: 10%, then 12%, then 14%, etc vs 10%, 15%, 25%, 35%, etc.

This would replace taxes on income including wealth-like income taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Winner-take-all effects and policy
  • Robert H. Frank covers some interesting topics on the implications of 1 markets. Very good read!
Income Taxes
Corporate Income Taxes

The Tax Foundation believes these are the most harmful (to economic growth/GDP) types of taxes, with personal income taxes coming next. The general agreement seems to be ‘lower the rate, broaden the base’ for all kinds of taxes (and cut out loopholes in order to lower rates and remove distortions!), but this of course is somewhat at odds with progressivity/wealth redistribution. (Although of course, taking 25% from the rich generates a lot more revenue than 25% from the poor. Marginal rates are by no means fixed dollar poll taxes!)

Wealth Taxes
  • Marginal Revolution summarizes some thoughts on wealth taxes. In general, economists seem to dislike them, and the evidence from France seems to suggest their very bad for the economy (wealth leaves the country.) "The French try to tax wealth per se, and that is a big reason why so many French people have ended up in London. People hate this, feeling they’ve already “given at the office.” A higher and more progressive income or consumption tax, if needed, usually is better than a wealth tax. The wealth tax hurts savings and investment to a disproportionate degree, plus it makes all property rights insecure. You never know when your earnings are safe from further taxation."

The Tax Foundation is similarly bearish on wealth taxes. Apparently they’re very expensive to administer as well.

Property Taxes

Per Marginal Revolution, "A property tax already is a wealth tax. This form of taxation works fine, although as much as possible value taxes on land should be replaced by taxes on the unimproved value of land, for the reasons suggested by Henry George. " The Tax Foundation believes that property taxes are the least bad form of existing taxation (vs income and capital gains/dividend taxes). Perhaps a progressive consumption tax could be combined with one on unimproved land value (presumably IMPROVED land value would be taxed as part of the consumption tax, perhaps over a number of years?)

Sales and Consumption Taxes



Health Care

Health care as a % of GDP worldwide (worldwide avg was 10% in 2012, 17% in US, up from ~13% in 1999)): http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS


Public Transportation
  • Costs of public vs private transportation, including some externalities. That guy (the ‘Anti-planner’) has some great data and articles on the ‘con’ side of public transit, and also insights in how to make public transit more useful.
    • The upshot is that public transport is much more expensive that private vehicles, generally.
    • It would be interesting to see cases of when public transit is more cost-effective, i.e.: break-even or profitable: the northeast Accela (Amtrak) rail corridor, packed buses, super-dense urban areas like NYC, Tokyo?):

Legal costs

Voter turnout

Income gap in voter turnout
Felon disenfranchisement


Homelessness Data


Drugs and alcohol

Alcohol addiction
Alcohol health concerns


Alcohol Tax Policy

Mississippi Judge Noah "Soggy" Sweat’s 1948 "satirical speech on fence-sitting politicians who avoid taking a stand on the issue of liquor control":

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey: If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it. This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Read ‘Paying the Tab’ by Philip Cook for excellent overview.

Notes from Paying the Tab by Philip Cook

It has long been recognized that the problems with alcohol relate not to the use of a bad thing, but to the abuse of a good thing. – Abraham Lincoln

In 2006, Federal excise tax is $18/31 gal beer barrel, $1.07/gallon of still wine, $13.50 per [100] proof gallon (= 50% abv) of spirits.

  • % of population reporting ANY drinking in the past 12 months:
    • 60 vs 72% for women vs men
    • 77% age 21 – 25 (61% 18 – 20), 75% 26-34 years old, 69% 35 – 55, 52% 55+
    • Whites 70%, Hispanic 60%, Blacks 53%
    • No H.S. diploma 46%, GED/Diploma 61%, Some college 71%, College grad 75%
    • Less than $20K 50%, 63% $20 – $50K, 72% $50-$80 K, $80K+ 79%

Typical price elasticity estimate for beer might be -0.3, meaning for every 1% increase in price, quantity demanded falls by 0.3%. Avg elasticities: -0.35% beer, -0.68% wine, -0.98% spirits. The lower beer elasticity is quite well-established "though still somewhat mysterious". When elasticity was measured from 1971 – 2000 to estimate the impact of sales taxes on sales, it was -0.74 beer, -0.49 wine, -1.47 spirits.

  • In 2002, 41% of fatal crashes had a driver or pedestrian who had at least 1 drink, snd 35% involved BAC > 0.08% legal limit.
    • Experiments and simulations have found that driving skills are degrading at 0.05% BAC and above. Drinking reduces the chances of survival as well, despite conventional wisdom. Other studies have demonstrated that BAC between 0.02 – 0.05 "were associated with elevated risk of fatal accident by a factor of about 3". (Emphasis mine.)
  • Elasticity of outcomes with changes in drinking levels: A 10% increase in per capita drinking is associated with a 5% increase in homicide and suicide, a 9-10% increase in accidents (motor vehicle – 9.2%, or falls 9.6%), and a 15% increase in cirrhosis deaths. These estimates control for changing economic conditions that might impact drinking levels.
    • Per RASPP data, with a 10 cent increase in taxes per ounce of ethanol (100% abv), which at 0.6 oz ethanol per standard drink = 6 cents per drink, at 2003 prices, that would decrease ethanol per capita by 12%, and motor vehicle fatalities by 7%, fall fatalities by 9%, homicide would INCREASE by 11% (que pasa?), suicide decrease by 6%, and cirrhosis drop by 32%.
    • Cook found that 10 cent increase per ounce ethanol (= 6 cents per standard drink) would result in short-term reduction in all-cause, all-age mortality rates of about 3.4% +/- 2%. [WW: This seems WAY too high to me, since in the US, 2.5 million people die annually, and thus 1% = 25,000 people, so that’s ~85K lives saved, but that’s about double the number of people who die in auto accidents! I guess I’d have to add up all the other causes of death and their individual rate reductions.]
  • Threshold dose for liver disease for men is 5-6 drinks per day for 20 years, and about 1/4 – 1/2 that (1.33 – 3 drinks) for women.
  • Inverse relationship between heart disease and moderate drinking, but that is all correlational, and NOT based on clinical trials, so should be suspect like Hormone Replacement Therapy.
  • Bratt system of alcohol control in Sweden required adults to get an application to buy liquor, and then have their purchases recorded in a motbok to ration alcohol based on sex, marital status, social responsibilities, and community of residence. 4 liters per month was the max for married males, and married women got nothing (had to use husband’s quota.)
  • IDEA: progressive taxes within category of alcohol under the logic that you’ll be less likely to abuse/get drunk of ‘small beer’? (See Dutch mayor limiting stadium sales at world soccer match to 3.5%, and the resultant lower British soccer hooligan violence.) E.g.: Beer that’s less likely to get you drunk should be taxed less per unit of alcohol. Say, lowest rate for beer from 1-2%, 2 – 3.5%, 3.5 – 4.5%, 4.5 – 5.5%, 5.5 – 7%, 7%+. Could do a similar thing with unsweetened wine: 1-7%, 7-10%, 10-12%, 12-15%, 15+. Try to make these rates comparable in cents/oz ethanol for comparable strengths across beverages. E.g.: 4.5 – 5.5% beer should be taxed like 35 – 45% booze and 12 – 15% wine.
  • The appropriate tax to control for alcohol externalities is estimated to be between 48 – 63 cents per ounce of ethanol (63 cents when including injury costs, and not just fatalities, from road accidents). 48 cents is ‘double the average state & federal tax’ rate. This is 29 – 38 cents per standard drink. So adding, say, "a quarter per drink" would hit the high end of that range.
    • Beer is disproportionately preferred by high risk groups include youths, men, and those who drink a lot in one session. (Most drinkers prefer beer in general, at about 50-55% of all ethanol consumption in the US.) A ‘best guess’ is that beer should be 1.25 times spirits tax rate, and wine 1.08 times. [But I personally feel an equal tax per unit ethanol would be ‘fairer’ and simpler.]
  • The 21 year old minimum age works, and is a good idea. Example, contrary to opinion, American teens tend to drink less frequently and get drunk less often than European teens.
  • Cook supports the idea of a uniform tax on ethanol regardless of type of beverage.
  • While increasing taxes, reduce the grip of large distributors over the market, and reduce interstate issues, and allow more direct sales from producer to consumer. This will help small wineries/distilleries/breweries. Wine & spirits have the most expensive distribution system of any packaged-good by far, per WSJ, suggesting market power by their distributors, supported by state laws.
Alcohol taxation in Nordic countries


Charitable Giving


Domestic Violence


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The social benefit from Pell Grants, which allowed talented and motivated incarcerated people to earn college degrees before being put back on the streets, may have been the greatest of all. The demise of this program and the declining real value of grants to low-income students in general provide clear evidence that politics dominate efficiency considerations in the design of federal subsidy programs. 

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Individual Outcomes of Education
The first conclusion from this [...] is that for both genders, at any given age, individuals with more education perceive higher wages. Moreover, these estimates suggest that the incremental benefit from additional education grows with experience: the differences in wages between people with varying degrees of education become larger as they advance in their careers. In other words, education pay-offs are not constant over the life cycle. Other studies using different data have found similar results (see, for instance, Blundell et al. 201320)

These estimates can still not be interpreted causally, because there are yet other potential sources of bias that are unaccounted for, such as innate ability. To address this issue, the economics literature has developed different strategies. For example, by contrasting the wages of genetically identical twins with different schooling level, researchers have found a way of controlling for unobservable characteristics such as family background and innate ability. The conclusion from these ‘twin studies’ is that the average estimates suggested by the figure below, are not very different to those that would be obtained from more sophisticated models that control for ability. In other words, there is robust evidence supporting the causal effect of education on wages (for more details see Card 1999).

Social Outcomes of Education
[A]dults with higher qualifications are more likely to report desirable social outcomes, including [increased trust in others,] good or excellent health, participation in volunteer activities, interpersonal trust, and political efficacy. And these results hold after controlling for literacy, gender, age and monthly earnings.

As usual, correlation does not imply causation – but it does show an important pattern that supports the idea that education is indeed necessary to produce social capital.
Countries with higher educational attainment in the past are more likely to have democratic political regimes today

[T]his positive correlation is indeed supported by the data. [... C]ountries where adults had a higher average education level in 1970, are also more likely to have democratic political regimes today (you can read more about measures of democracy in our entry on Democratization).

As usual, these results should be interpreted carefully, because they do not imply a causal link: it does not prove that increasing education necessarily produces democratic outcomes everywhere in the world.
However, the academic research here does suggest that there is a causal link between education and democratization – indeed, a number of empirical academic papers have found that this positive relationship remains after controlling for many other country characteristics (see, for example, Lutz, Crespo-Cuaresma, and Abbasi‐Shavazi 201023).
Women’s education is inversely correlated with child mortality

An important body of literature stipulates that women’s education leads to lower child mortality because it contributes towards healthier habits and choices, including child spacing (see Brown and Barrett 1991 for a more detailed conceptualization of the mechanisms).24

The following visualization shows the strong cross-country correlation between child mortality and educational attainment.
“better education does not only lead to higher individual income, but also is a necessary (although not always sufficient) precondition for long-term economic growth.”
This coincides with other studies showing that historical increases in the number of universities across countries are positively associated with subsequent growth of GDP per capita (Valero and Van Reenen 2016).28
School drop out/graduation rates
Teacher income vs student achievement
  • According to this, when controlling properly for other ‘non-pecuniary variables’, a 10% increase in teacher salaries = 3 – 6% decrease in dropout rate. Also, a 20% increase in teacher salaries in the 70s and 80s would’ve reduced current dropout rates today by 8.4% (maybe I didn’t capture that quite right.) ALSO, the extra cost slighly OUTWEIGHS the lifetime (present value) of benefits to the students of these salary increases. I.e.: teacher’s salaries do not appear to be the ‘magic bullet’ for improving educational outcomes, at least for dropout rates: http://cepatest.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/loebpage.pdf

From the paper’s conclusion:

Our estimates suggest that, holding all else equal, raising teachers’ wages by 10% (which would undo the 10% fall in relative wages that occurred during the 1980s) would reduce dropout rates by between 3% and 6%. Likewise, if the 20% increase in real teacher wages that occurred between 1959 and 1989 had been a relative increase (that is, the alternative opportunities for female college graduates had remained constant), then dropout rates would be at least 8.4% lower than they are today. A back-of-the-envelope comparison of the costs and beneŽ ts associated with raising teacher wages by 10% indicates that the increase in individuals’ discounted lifetime wages that would result from the additional educational attainment produced by such an increase would be
slightly outweighed by the cost. An increase in teacher wages is likely to affect outcomes other than the educational attainment measures that we have focused on in this study, however. Moreover, targeted increases may be more effective than across-the-board increases. A more complete analysis of the total costs and beneŽ ts associated with such a policy is certainly warranted.