Book Review- The New New Thing

The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story
by Michael Lewis, 1999


I wasn’t on the internet much before the dot-com bust, so this book was an interesting view into the internet and Silicon Valley culture of the 90’s. The book was written by Michael Lewis (The Big Short, Moneyball) in 1999, around the time Google was getting started, and the book quips about how silly it is that Google was valued at $75M at the time in one of the final chapters. The central figure is Jim Clark, who helped found Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and Healtheon, which all (briefly) became billion dollar companies. Reading it, you’re struck by how flimsy the business notions of many internet companies are. The Netscape browser was popular, but never really had a way to make money and was eventually bought by AOL. I use the Firefox browser nowadays, which is the biggest remaining “branch” of the Netscape browser. Healtheon wanted to insert itself into the middle of the health care bureaucracy, somehow, in a way that never made sense in the book. It eventually merged with WebMD. Throughout the book, Microsoft was the big, bad wolf lurking in the background, with the clout to swamp any startup/industry it focused upon.

Nowadays, this book is valuable for the look into the internet culture of the 90’s and for understanding how Silicon Valley acquired so much power. Lewis was embedded with Clark for many months to write the book, so there is a lot of discussion of tech entrepreneur behavior, which often seems crazy from the outside. An interesting book to read, but only if the subject matter appeals to you.

NFL Picks- Week 3 of 2016

Overall Against the Spread: 8-8
Week 2: 8-8

Here are my week 3 predictions, with the current line in parentheses:
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (even): Predicting 19.4-23.2. Bet on the New England Patriots.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.0): Predicting 20.0-22.0. Bet on the Denver Broncos.
Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills (+4.5): Predicting 23.2-20.5. Bet on the Buffalo Bills.
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars (even): Predicting 22.1-20.0. Bet on the Baltimore Ravens.
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers (-7.0): Predicting 20.6-25.1. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (-1.5): Predicting 22.2-25.4. Bet on the Tennessee Titans.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-4.5): Predicting 17.4-25.4. Bet on the New York Giants.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-7.5): Predicting 20.5-24.4. Bet on the Detroit Lions.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (-10.0): Predicting 18.7-24.4. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4.5): Predicting 17.4-21.1. Bet on the Los Angeles Rams.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-9.5): Predicting 19.4-19.7. Bet on the San Francisco 49ers.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0): Predicting 22.9-25.7. Bet on the New York Jets.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5): Predicting 20.2-23.5. Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles.
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Predicting 27.8-25.7. Bet on the San Diego Chargers.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-7.0): Predicting 18.9-24.7. Bet on the Chicago Bears.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-3.0): Predicting 22.8-25.7. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons.

Book Review- The Behavior Gap

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money
by Carl Richards, 2012

The Behavior Gap

Quick read. Gives some great insights into why people do stupid things with money (emotions, fear, greed, lack of knowledge) and how to stop doing them (make a plan, stop watching financial news, set goals based on what is important in life). I think the topics touched on in this book are major problems for a lot of people, so it is suggested from that perspective. Pairs well with The Index Card. I do wish the author had created a stronger main narrative of the book, however; there were a series of topics related to behavioral financial issues, but the topics didn’t always feel interconnected.

NFL Picks- Week 2 of 2016

My NFL betting model uses scores from previous weeks to predict the results of the current week of games. Here are my 2015 and 2014 betting results, where I am a combined 205-174 (54.1%) against the spread.

Now, it is week 2, so I only have one week of results with which to build my model. And it’s based on scores alone. It doesn’t know that Carolina’s loss was to a good Denver team and that SF blew out a bad Rams team. So in reality, I don’t expect SF to beat Carolina outright (though they have a good chance against the spread). Nonetheless, the model has been profitable when run over the last 30+ years, even in week 2. Given that, here are the predictions for week 2:

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (+1.0): Predicting 17.5-20.7. Bet on the Buffalo Bills.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-2.5): Predicting 22.9-21.4. Bet on the Dallas Cowboys.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-6.5): Predicting 17.3-21.1. Bet on the Miami Dolphins.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.0): Predicting 19.0-26.5. Bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (-13.5): Predicting 20.5-18.6. Bet on the San Francisco 49ers.
Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions (-5.5): Predicting 20.9-28.0. Bet on the Detroit Lions.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+6.0): Predicting 19.0-17.9. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans (-2.5): Predicting 20.7-24.4. Bet on the Houston Texans.
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants (-4.5): Predicting 21.4-26.1. Bet on the New York Giants.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (+3.5): Predicting 18.6-16.4. Bet on the Los Angeles Rams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5): Predicting 22.9-22.6. Bet on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-6.0): Predicting 22.4-26.5. Bet on the Indianapolis Colts.
Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders (-4.5): Predicting 22.4-28.4. Bet on the Oakland Raiders.
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers (-3.0): Predicting 22.0-25.9. Bet on the San Diego Chargers.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+2.0): Predicting 19.9-23.9. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears (-3.0): Predicting 21.1-19.4. Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Notes from “Holding Students Accountable for Coming to Class Prepared”

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning brown bag session today. Here are my notes:

-All readings/preparations should have consequences. Students will not spend time on things that end up not mattering. I liked the phrase, “Set something on fire” to get the students attention to do the pre-class work.

-You need to create a culture of preparation early.

-One idea was to have “admission tickets”, whereby students hand in a small pre-class item for a nominal amount of points.

-Having effective pre-class work allows students to tell you the subjects that they want/need to spend more time on in class. This can either be done before class (ask questions ahead of time, see where the students’ answers are deficient) or during the start of class. This is an element of “just-in-time” teaching, whereby you figure out what needs extra discussion right before you have the discussion.

-One option to avoid calling on unprepared students is to have them take a quick quiz alone and then take the same quiz in their team. They can discuss the questions they did not know. Assign some combination of points across the individual and team aspects.

-One thought provoking-question was, “If everyone came prepared, how would class be different? Or, what else could we do in class?” Think about your answer to that. In my classes, we’d have time to evaluate more realistic examples/implementations. Another option would be to split the final project into bite-sized pieces that they work on over time with the extra time we create by coming to class prepared.

Excerpts from ‘Elements of Style for Writing Scientific Journal Articles’

The full, short paper is here. These are the suggestions I thought most relevant:

-Write for the busy reader who is easily distracted.

-Use the present tense for known facts and hypotheses. Use the past tense for describing experiments that have been conducted and the results of these experiments. Avoid shifting tenses within a unit of text (paragraph, sub-section or section).

-Use the active voice to shorten sentences.

-Eliminate redundant words or phrases. “Due to the fact that” becomes “because”.

-Write direct and short sentences. The average length of sentences in scientific writing is only about 12-17 words.

-Avoid making multiple statements in one sentence. Link sentences together within a paragraph to provide a clear story-line.

-Put statements in positive form. Use “He usually came late” instead of “He is not very often on time”.

-Provide a logical transition from one paragraph to another.

-Avoid using “this” unqualified. It’s not always obvious what “this” is.

-Avoid subjective or redundant words or phrases that will date the paper. Examples: “high resolution”, “new result”, “latest findings”.

-Avoid expressions of belief, instead giving logic as to why something will be true.

-Cross-reference equations, figures, and sections both by their number and by their name. I hadn’t thought about this and never do it. Use “as discussed in the methods Section 2” instead of “as discussed in Section 2”. Makes life easier for the reader.

-Allow the reader to digest a figure’s main points without reading the text. Figures should be able to stand alone.

-When editing, read your work as an interested and smart non-expert.

2017 Early-career Sustainable Operations Workshop

Re-posting the call for presentations from Professors Kraft and Agrawal:

Dear colleagues,

We are happy to announce that the 2017 Early-career Sustainable Operations workshop will be held March 3rd – 5th, 2017 at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.

The program will follow a format similar to the past two years, with a dinner to be held Friday night, followed by a full day of presentations and panels Saturday, and then a half day of presentations on Sunday. The conference is sponsored by the Darden School of Business, the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, and the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.

The program committee includes Atalay Atasu (Georgia Tech), Eda Kemahlioglu-Ziya (NC State), Beril Toktay (Georgia Tech), Vishal Agrawal (Georgetown), and Tim Kraft (Darden). We plan to schedule 6-8 presentations on Saturday and 3-4 presentations on Sunday. We are inviting junior academics (untenured faculty) and PhD students who are interested in presenting to submit a 1-page abstract or a working paper, if one is available, to by November 4, 2016. Notice of acceptances will be sent by December 16, 2016. Ties will be broken in favor of full papers.

For more information or questions, please email Tim Kraft at or Vishal Agrawal at

Thank you!
Vishal and Tim

Tim Kraft
Assistant Professor
University of Virginia
Darden School of Business
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Vishal Agrawal
Associate Professor
McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.