SJND Class of 1993 20 Year Reunion

For any of my high school friends who read my blog, it’s time to register for our 20 year reunion taking place at Rock Wall winery Saturday November 23rd. I was involved with the planning, as I was with all our other reunions, but bowed out recently because of the miscarriages and all of the medical stuff I have to take care of. It’s kind of mind-boggling how much blood I’ve had drawn this year alone.

I went to Saint Joseph Notre Dame, a small private Catholic high school in Alameda. I had the best high school experience a teenager could ask for. We counted fruit flies in Honors Biology so that we could understand genetics. My Trigonometry teacher taught me how to ski and took us on numerous trips to Tahoe. I babysat my teachers’ kids. I was a cheerleader for our beloved basketball team (think Hoosiers) which won back-to-back Division I state championships and starred NBA all-star Jason Kidd. There were only 100 students in my class. I’m in the 2nd row, 2nd from the left. As you scan the picture, I’d also point out how unbelievably diverse my class was, especially for a small private school. The best school and class ever!

College Series: What to Look for When Picking a College

Did you see the news today that Obama plans to rank schools and tie federal aid to the ranking? Hell yes! The better the schools, the more financial aid they get. Hallelujah, now someone’s thinking! Why should poorly-ranked schools (schools that have high drop out rates, high post-graduate unemployment rates) get funding? It’s akin to throwing money down the toilet.

Anywho, I hope that my college alma mater gets more funding given its status! Go bears!

Now I want to talk about what to look for when picking a college, if that is the correct path. In a future post, I will get to my belief that people do not need to go to college to be successful. People are wired to do exactly what is mainstream, which is why people won’t take the time to think about other options, i.e., alternatives that may very well be more meaningful, profitable, and successful than simply doing what everyone else does.

What to look for when picking a college:

First of all, parents should not be picking which college their kids go to. If your kid wants to go to college, your rugrat better be doing the research! Parents should be sitting on their laurels and not lifting a finger. When kids have narrowed down their choices, they should present to their parents the pros and cons of each school and ask for advice. But parents should not be doing the homework! If high school seniors can stay out late, drink alcohol, smoke, and potentially conceive children of their own, they can surely conduct their own college research.

As for picking the right school, what metric are we solving for? Are we looking for a college with a lot of history? Do you care about a robust and active alumni? Does the sports program give you goose bumps? Are you trying to find the school with the perfect cultural fit? No. No. No. No.

Let me repeat my answer to the above questions. NO! You are not looking to go to the same school that your grandpa went to. You are not looking for a school that has the cutest mascot. You are not looking for a school that has a lofty endowment. You need to zero in on one thing.

Why do you go to college? Tell me your answer. I’ll give you a minute to comment before reading on.

[TAKE 60 SECONDS OR LESS TO COMMENT ON WHY YOU GO TO COLLEGE]

If you want to go to college because you want to have a great life experience, then go sail around the world.

If you want to go to college because you want to play professional basketball, then go play professional basketball in China.

If you want to go to college because you want to meet lots of single people and find a spouse, then save yourself a lot of money and sign up for Match.com.

If you want to go to college because you think it’s the thing to do, then I urge you to think about better options that are available to you before going into a shitload of debt.

Let me tell you the reason why you should be going to college. You are going to college because you genuinely believe it will lead to a successful career. What does that mean having a successful career? It means having a job when you graduate from college! So what are you looking for when you are researching schools? You’re looking for this: Percentage of students who are employed 3 months after graduation.

This metric should be in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for top schools. I can’t tell because I’m not a subscriber but I know they have this for graduate schools. It’s also the most important question you should ask when visiting colleges. Not: Tell me about the student body, tell me about your culture, tell me about your sports teams!

It’s all about career success and employment. If the schools can’t give you a good answer, then move on, it’s not a school you should be considering. You are going to college because it will lead to great things, first and foremost, a job that will pay the bills once you graduate. Look for schools that have successful career counseling and placement services. Grill alumni and ask them about their experience and whether the school assisted in job placement. More than ever, choosing a college is one of the most important investments you will ever make. Don’t make the decision lightly.

Here are other posts in the college series:

1. Stop the Advertising

2. The Key to Success is Primary School Education

How to Prepare for Burning Man: 12 Tips Not in the Survival Guide

First some background for those of you who don’t know what Burning Man is. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community. 50,000 Burners (as we’re called) celebrate in the Black Rock City desert of Nevada for the one week preceding Labor Day every year. It’s the most amazing music and art ‘festival’ in the world.

Here are some of my pictures from the 2007 event which was my favorite year: double rainbows, unbelievable art, some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Advice on how to prepare for Burning Man after the photos.

Here’s How to Prepare for Burning Man:

You must read the survival guide. Even veterans like me who have been burning for a decade read that thing every year. Super useful. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s in it. Just know that you need to be prepared! Lots of water, all the food that you need, first aid kit, medicine, sunscreen, hydrocortisone for a heat rash, whatever! If for any reason you have a propensity to get pink-eye or diarrhea, make sure you are prepared. You don’t want to be out in the desert, totally screwed because you forgot some random drug store item. It doesn’t matter that there are medical tents, they will not have what you need. I used to think, oh of course they’ll have rash cream. No they will not. BE PREPARED! Pack for the most intense heat in the day (i.e., wide-brimmed hat) and the most intense cold at night (i.e., down coat).

Now, I’m going to tell you what’s not in the guide:

1. If you are tenting, then I would make sure you do a trial run with your tent prior to arriving on playa. If your tent has any holes (air ventilation), then keep in mind that when you return to your tent after a dust storm that a half-inch of dust will be covering all of your belongings. In other words, you need an expensive all-weather tent. If you do not have the funds for an all-weather tent, I suggest you hot-gun pieces of cloth over the air ventilation to prevent dust from seeping in.

2. Goggles. You need goggles to protect your eyes in a dust storm. Most goggles have ventilation holes in them. Make sure you tape over them, otherwise your goggles will be useless.

3. Pretend like you are a famous runway model and you are packing for a week’s worth (both day and night) of catwalks. You want to look cute because everyone looks really good, and this is where single people hookup! Don’t dress like you’re going hiking. Be sexy!

4. Shopping: A) Sports Basement for your tent and other travel essentials, B) the thrift stores in the Haight or the Mission for costumes, C) Bed Bath & Beyond for toiletries, and D) Costco for your food and water.

5. At all times on playa, you should carry a backpack (a tiny one). In it, you need to have a bottle that you can refill with water or booze, sunscreen, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a notebook, and a pen or pencil. You will constantly be running into people who will say, “We’re having a party on Wednesday night, you should come.” And you need to be able to write all these fun things down otherwise you’ll forget. I also recommend wearing a cheap watch.

6. Always carry a roll of toilet paper. When you are out partying into the wee hours and the porta-potties have run out of TP, you will thank me!

7. You must have a bike. Your bike must be locked. If your bike is not locked, it will be stolen. Do not get a bike lock that is challenging because

you will need to lock and unlock your bike constantly while biking around the beautiful city. I buy a super easy lock with a key like this. I attach the key to a bracelet on my wrist so I have easy access to it at all times.

8. Don’t be a dark wad. That’s what we call people who have no lighting in the middle of the night. Do you want to get run over by an art car? Get some neon el-wire and make sure you’re visible!

9. Bring your party favors. There should be no exchange of that stuff on playa lest you want to get arrested. There are undercover cops waiting to put their handcuffs around your wrists.

10. Here’s an easy gift to share with others. Get a stack of postcards, put postage stamps on them, and hand them out to people so that they can send mail to their loved ones back home. Yes, there is a post office on playa. While you’re at it, send me some love:

Vixen
321 Roanoke Street
San Francisco, CA 94131

Here’s some really good swag I’ve gotten through the years.

11. Get a radio and listen to Burning Man Independent Radio (BMIR). Listen to it now, listen to it on the playa. Best radio station on the planet.

12. The most important thing to remember is that shit happens, something will go wrong, the lines to get in will be long, the lines to get out will be grueling, but just chill and enjoy the experience. It will be worth it.

Here is a previous post I had written on how to prepare for Burning Man. I obviously thought differently of costumes back then!

Money Monday: How to Invest in Stocks without Losing Money

First a story. When I was a sophomore in high school, our Geometry teacher asked if anyone wanted to participate in his stock-picking exercise. We were to pick a stock and track its performance over the course of the semester. Guess who lost big time? Me! I was the laughing stock of class. I was so embarrassed because I picked…wait for it…Genentech which ironically would have made me rich if I’d been playing with real money and had held onto it! Because truly it was a rose bud of a stock waiting to blossom, but the stock happened to fall over the course of a semester.

Fast forward in time, the first thing I did when I got my first full-time paycheck was buy Cisco stock. I also ended up interning for Cisco in business school, so life certainly comes around full circle. I also remember buying Yahoo and Excite. Any business that I thought had promise, I bought. Over the years, I’ve lost a lot of money and I’ve also made a lot of money too.

Anywho, I have advice on buying/selling stocks. If you don’t currently invest in the stock market, I’m going to show you how to dive in and make money (i.e., not lose your hard-earned mullah). You ready?

Here’s how to invest in stocks without losing money:

There’s always going to be risk in whatever stock you pick. Even Warren Buffet makes mistakes, so regardless of all the research you do, you’re going to pick some losers. It’s just like dating. You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to finally find your prince.

Also keep in mind, I don’t short stocks. I have a buy and hold philosophy.

So settle on a handful of stocks and JUST DO IT!

Let’s take a few examples.

Yahoo has been in the news lately. The powerful Marissa Mayer’s is at the helm and the trajectory is looking better than ever. Buy.

You can’t live without Starbucks coffee? You buy it on a daily basis and there are always lines whenever you go? Buy.

Do some research and google ‘top stocks to buy now.’ Read some articles, go with your gut, and buy!

Like I said, some of these are going to be losers, but if you don’t take the risk of getting into the market now, you’re never going to reap the rewards. And wouldn’t you rather earn more than the 50 basis points your cash is earning in a savings account?

Set aside a budget for how much you want to invest in stocks, figure out what you want to buy, diversify your portfolio, and then go for it and buy.

Here’s what’s important. In order to not lose money, you have to set an alert to sell if the stock price hits a certain target that you don’t feel comfortable with. You got that? You have to set the alerts! I’m always watching my portfolio so I just sell if the stock is ever down more than 2% from when I bought it. Don’t watch as the stock continues to plummet and then pray that it will suddenly reverse course. It ain’t going to happen. Sell as soon as it hits your uneasiness target. It’s an easy way to prune your portfolio and not lose more than 2%.

What are your investment tips?

Do you have any stocks to recommend?

What stocks have you bought that were big winners or losers?

Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I tweet insights several times a day, even more interesting tidbits than what’s on my blog. Just check out my latest tweets and see what you think.

Why I’m Not Going to the Alt SLC Blogging Conference

I had my heart set on going to the Altitude Summit Salt Lake City (Alt SLC) conference which is one of the most well-regarded of all the blog conferences. But when registration was announced and I saw the fee, I knew I had to pass.

Why I’m Not Going to the Alt SLC Blogging Conference:

The cost is $625. That’s not chump change. That’s a lot of money, especially since the majority of blog conferences are merely regurgitating information that can be found online. Let’s be real, whatever you need to be successful as a blogger, (whether that’s SEO or social media or finding sponsors), can be learned by doing a handful of Google searches. It’s not hard, people! You don’t need to spend your hard-earned cash paying a registration fee on top of a plane ticket on top of hotel accommodations in addition to transportation as well as time off from work if you’re not going to get the ROI.

Let me run some comparisons for you.

Alt SLC – January 22-25, 2014 – Salt Lake City

$625

400+ attendees in 2011 – I could not find good current estimates despite reading a bunch of recaps online.

33 sponsors in 2013

Alt SF – July 18, 2013 – San Francisco

I attended Altitude Summit’s SF conference a month ago. I wrote this recap.

$265

320 attendees

9 sponsors

BlogHer ’13 – July 25-27, 2013 – Chicago

$198 early bird

3,000+ attendees

130+ sponsors

keynote speakers: Sheryl Sandberg, Guy Kawasaki

BlogHer Pro – October 22-23, 2013 – San Francisco

$199

Limited information is available on this conference, but details here.

SXSW Interactive – March 6-11, 2014 – Austin

$795

30,000+ attendees

7 current supersponsors

1,800 speakers

I wanted to add South by Southwest as the real kicker as a comparison to Alt SLC Blogging Conference. SXSW is a marquis conference: 5 full days of programming, 30k attendees, and almost 2k speakers. SXSW is charging $795 for the interactive track of their conference, compared to $625 for Alt SLC.

This is a no brainer. Alt SLC is so expensive compared to the other conferences. Even the main BlogHer conference with way more attendees, way more sponsors, and the best keynote speakers is one-third the price!

I don’t mind spending the money on a conference where I see value, but the fact that Alt SLC Alt SLC Blogging Conference is so much more expensive than conferences that have better programming makes me scratch my head as to who is willing to register and spend this kind of money. Nevertheless, I look forward to the Alt SLC recaps!

What has been your experience with any of the conferences mentioned above, or any other blog conference I did not mention?

Do you have plans to attend a blog conference?