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Archive for September, 2008

What a great week for progress! Right on the heels of China’s first extra-vehicular activity in space, the privately run SpaceX has made history!

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 became the first privately built liquid rocket to orbit the Earth tonight, following in the footsteps of SpaceShipOne which became the first privately built crewed spaceship to fly suborbitally in October 2004. One other thing they both have in common? All the people who said it was impossible.

Wired:Space Visionaries Prove Naysayers Wrong— Again

Shenzhou 7 launch
China has launched its 3rd manned space flight. As someone who grew up very disappointed in NASA’s failure to live up to the previous generations sky-high expectations, I absolutely love seeing this kind of news. While China is still doing things that the US and USSR did almost 50 years ago, they are making quite a bit of progress. Last year, they sent up a lunar probe (appropriately named Chang’e), and now Shenzhou 7 will include the first extra-vehicular travel of any of non-US/USSR mission. They’ll make it to the moon sooner than people expect. That’s good. China can do more to help kick-start the US space program than advocacy group could.

Here’s a speech by president Hu.

Here’s an interview with the astronauts.

I’ve written before about the crazy English names people in Taiwan often go by. This year, though, there’s something entirely new for me.

I’ve had students before who often changed their English name, one of whom even went so far as to take a new one every month. However, I hadn’t ever had a student with an ambiguous name until recently.

He told me his name was Sinbad. But then he wrote Simba on his tape. I updated my records. The next week, he gave me his homework book. It said Sinbad. I changed his name back. Then he wrote Simba on his test book. This was odd enough that I pulled him aside after class and asked him what the heck his name was.

He said he wasn’t that picky. Maybe I should see if he answers to Sinclair.

It’s already time consuming to calculate annualized returns, but presenting them has taken me far more time than I can afford to spend. Creating HTML tables and populating them with my investment data just sucks. It’s not so bad when presenting the results of a single sale. An update of my entire portfolio, is a different matter.

So, starting now, I’ll be relying on the charts generated by Stockalicious. Here’s one that compares my portfolio performance over the last year to that of the NASDAQ and the SP500.

A rough year
As Investor Blogger pointed out, I’ve been “treading water”. It’s true. The Toshuo Portfolio has fallen by about 3% over the last year. The market as a whole, though, has suffered far worse. Over the same time period, the SP500 and NASDAQ each fell by over 20%.

Yeah, I've crushed the market!

The two-year chart is much more dramatic– 60% growth for the Toshuo Port while the market indexes were in the negative.

In the future, I plan to use Stockalicious to do portfolio recaps. It saves quite a bit of time, and takes care off all the error-prone calculations for us.

Tracking how well your investments do is important. Without a clear idea of what kind of returns you’re getting, you’ll have no idea of whether you’re crushing the market or fettering your money away to those who are. As a long term investor, it isn’t necessary to panic about losing against the market on occasion. If I’m losing year after year, though, then it might be time to abandon active investing in favor of an index fund which will at least guarantee you’ll match the market (minus a modest management fee).

For a one-off investment, it’s easy to calculate annualized returns. Annualized growth of capital (or anything for that matter) is

((Current Value / Initial Value) ^ (1/years passed)) -1

For example, if you’ve doubled your money and it took three years, then your annualized return was 2 to the one-third power minus one, or just under 26%. This same formula is useful for calculating revenue and earnings growth of individual companies.

For an entire stock portfolio on the other hand, it isn’t possible to use such a simple process. As soon as you start adding money, which investors should be doing regularly, it becomes necessary to calculate a Net Asset Value before and after the addition of funds and dilute your asset growth calculation accordingly. It’s a messy messy process and the easiest way to deal with it is probably using the XIRR function on a Google spreadsheet.

My ex-girlfriend Kim is back from Beijing for the weekend. Back in the day, Kim worked in the cellphone games division of Sonet. Despite only living abroad a total of 1 year, she somehow she managed to get her English so good that my old co-workers Mike and Nathan originally mistook her for an ABC. She played a really mean game of Warcraft III, too.

Anyway, we met up for nightmarket food and she regaled me with stories of the great Sichuan food she’s been eating and her approaching marriage plans. She’s still the same witty and fun person she’s always been! It was really fun to catch up with Kim and good to hear how well her life’s going out there.

Normally, I wouldn’t write here about an ex, but she insisted, and who am I to say no to someone who has run a guild and likely has a level 70 death night at her disposal!

Vacation

It was good to see you, and I hope you continue enjoying life out in Beijing!

Regular readers of this site will be aware of my feelings about the, uh… “creative” romanization schemes used in different parts of Taiwan. As a newcomer, it really did make life a bit more difficult not having any clue how to pronounce various street signs or MRT station names. It appears that the problem may be coming to an end. According to Pinyin.info, the Taiwanese government has finally adopted Hanyu Pinyin (Chinese language source), the romanization scheme known simply as used by China as well as foreign students all over the world.

It’s been a long time since reading the characters commonly used on street signs has been much of a problem for me, but it is good to see that the era of haphazard romanization drawing to a close. I can’t say I’ll miss seeing a single street 中山 being labeled as “zhongshan”, “chungshan”, “chongsan” and “zongsan” at various points over a 20km stretch, either.

Related Entry: Tone Marks on Roadsigns

I’ve decided to start recycling older entries on this site. I don’t know too many people doing that, but there are a few reasons I find the idea appealing.

When I started writing on this site, I had a lot of things I wanted to write about, many of them already written in paper journals. There was a steady supply of things to write about, and I had a fair amount of time in which to write it. Now, though, things are different.

This blog already has nearly five hundred entries, some of which have been useful to me or interesting to my friends, but others which haven’t. Still other entries were very useful, but have limited shelf-life. It only makes sense to update them. I may be able to improve them, too.

I caught this on TED.com the other day, and it really reminded me of my friend Thomas. At least last time I met up with them, he was a programmer by day, and literally built a working spacecraft in his garage. The speaker Peter Diamonds is behind the X-Prize.