Ill Timed, Gratuitious NPH Plug:

Legendary-NPH

This is not so much a post as the equivalent of retweeting something amazing. Three things in life are certain:

  1. Death (despite what they might say about healthy living in California)
  2. Taxes (especially here in California)
  3.  Neil Patrick Harris is ridiculously good at everything (that applies everywhere)

To recap the Youtube walkabout I completed to arrive at this blindingly obvious statement:

  • Watching Josh Gad on FX’s The Comedians
  • Watching Josh Gad in The Book of Mormon
  • Watching The Book of Mormon opening sequence from the 2014 Tony’s
  • Watching NPH perform the 2013 Tony’s opening sequence

Just watch it, and ask yourself if you could any 30 second part of that performance perfectly, and then ask if you would ever be able to string all of those perfect takes together.

And before you start making fun of me for gushing about a Tony’s opening performance. Let me say that NPH has the perfect retort lined up already:

Alright, clearly I am not having a productive day today, time to go back to my baby-kale salad and Hugh Jackman movie marathon.

The Reddit Experiment (Results)

Fret not dear readers! In the last several weeks I would understand if many thought I had simply bailed on my Reddit Experiment, but I have, in fact, been busy at work. I ultimately submitted 7/10 of the original posts I posed in the original blog post. Given a busy work schedule, I am just going to call it a day.

The results…well I failed. I did not achieve my original goal of having any posts crack the top 100. That said, I did garner some unwarranted karma (as well as a little bit of controversy), and have a theory as to why things did not go as planned. But without further ado, the results (refer to original post to see what I said I would be posting to Reddit):

1) Shitty painting with sad back story (did not end up posting)

2) A “how to you like ‘dem apples” story about fighting everyday sexism. This was actually my most successful post. I will not link it here because it caused a little bit of controversy and I don’t want it becoming a thing. The post was a pic of a nice looking girl with her parents at MIT graduation with the comment saying something along the lines of “my HS counselor told me I would never make it as an engineer, guess HE was wrong.” The crazy part is that the girl in the photo then somehow saw my post and rightfully went “WTF is someone doing posting this as if they are me.” I then got downvoted to hell with people accusing me of being a total karma whore creep, which I guess is pretty accurate.  RESULT: ~700 link karma, ~400 Upvotes

3) Really stupid TIFU story about my son drinking my urine sample thinking it was JELLO. RESULT :17 Upvotes

4) Picture of WWII grandparent. I found a good photo but never got around to posting it.

5) Futurama screenshot post. RESULT: 2 Upvotes

6) Snarky letter from neighbors (did not end up posting)

7) WWI factoid from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. RESULT: 23 Upvotes

8) Really stupid, pandering “Ask Reddit” post. RESULT: 2 Upvotes

9) Really stupid, impractical LifeProTip. RESULT: 1 Upvote

10) Scenic landscape picture. RESULT: 41 Upvotes

INTERPRETATION:

So after all that work I think one very simple way to look at this is that I was wrong and apparently it is not that easy to make it to the front page. I accept I was wrong but had a bit of a revelation about the front page. I realize that I was thinking about this all wrong – I thought that just because I can create posts of equivalent value to what I see on the front page, they should get to the front page themselves. What I have come to realize, however, is that that line of thinking totally ignores that getting to the front page has a lot to do with luck and momentum, and I am just seeing the survivors. It would be similar to looking through a fashion magazine and thinking all it takes to become a model is to be thin, tall,  and have symmetrical facial features. The reality of the situation is that you require those qualities to become a model, but having those qualities only increases your chances from 1:10,000 to 1:1,000.  I realized this applied to Reddit when even during the period I was posting, I saw other posts that were almost exactly the same as my own reach the top 100 while my own posts languished.

To illustrate this further, I am going to look at the top 100 Reddit posts right now (5/3/15 6:15 PM PT) and see how many mirror posts I had made:

In all, I am pretty pleased with putting this experiment together, though not nearly as pleased as if I could gloat about “hacking reddit” and manipulating all the mental midgets within it. Turns out I am only smart enough to know why I failed, but not yet smart enough to succeed. I’ll take it.

The Reddit Experiment

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I recently had a friend’s post reach the #2 spot on Reddit’s front page. It was, (perhaps predictably) an “aww” picture of him holding his dog with a derpy expression on his (the dog’s that is) face, with the title “Some people think [the dog] is weird but I think he’s cute..” or something like that.  I, of course, was both impressed and jealous- as a “no time poster, long time lurker” I have never felt the glow of self-affirmation that a front-page post brings. Perhaps so as a way to minimize missing out on this feat, I have always contended that it is not that hard to reach the front page if one is willing to “sell-out” and pander to Reddit’s basest instincts. No more conjecture. I am going to try to attempt it, and will report back the results for your reading pleasure.

This idea comes from my own frustration with things getting upvoted on Reddit which have no inherent value/insight/comedic quality, but which strike some level of salaciousness / self-congratulation / human interest which makes people want to up vote them. See the examples below if you do not yet know what I mean.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER- some of the posts may appear insensitive or that I am making light of certain challenging life situations or great achievements. I hope it is clear that this is all pure satire and not meant to be taken seriously. This is more a commentary on the Reddit community as a whole.

The Experiment:

To make this a fair experiment, I am going to list beforehand on this blog the content which I plan to submit to Reddit, so that you know a) that it is actually me posting it and b) you know I am not simply “playing the numbers” and submitting a huge number of posts. I already have a short list of posts which I intend to submit, noted below. It might take time to make some of them, so let’s just say I will get 10 reddit posts out in the next month.

Current Post Submissions: 

I should state up front that all of the posts will come from different usernames because they will include enough “lies” that they would be obviously contradictory if they came from a single user. I also plan to use the “long time lurker, first time poster, please be kind” bait pretty heavily, so obviously you can only do that once for a given user name. In no particular order the “high likelihood” posts I can think of (I will literally will think of these on the spot):

1) Picture of a very average painting I made, but will attribute it to a illness-stricken (perhaps depressed) friend or SO, and say something along the lines of “SO doesn’t think it is very good,  but I know painting has helped him/her through some tough times, and thought Reddit had to see this”

2) Picture of someone achieving something very mundane but backstory that someone else “said it could never be done.” For example “My HS counselor said ‘engineering progams are especially tough for girls’ and that I should focus on liberal arts schools. I guess MIT thought otherwise”  and then insert a photo of a girl receiving an MIT diploma.

3) Some stupid, obviously fake, obscene “TIFU” story, which is made successful by a comic juxtaposition between the title and actual events which occurred. For example “TIFU by serving urine to my fourth-grader’s class” and the actual story will be about putting a urine sample for a doctor into the fridge, and my young son thinking it was lemonade for the school bake sale.

4) B&W photo of someone looking cool, and then attributing it to my WWII veteran grandfather [self explanatory]

5) Simpson’s or Futurama screen cap submission which says something like “Absolutely the best line from the Simpson’s” or “I love Bender”. Same thing also works for anything Nick Swanson says from Parks and Recreation or Michael Scott from The Office.

6) Fake an awesomely snarky or sarcastic letter which I ostensibly gave to / received from my neighbors regarding either a) being able to hear/see people having sex b) a dog pooping in the hallway of the apartment

7) Submit a “TIL” about a cool fact about the Mongols or WWI from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast (I have seen at least 5 of these on the front page in the last few months). I will be sure to take it out of context and overly dramatize it.

8) Submit an “Ask Reddit” asking people in the food/service industry something self-congratulatory, or giving folks a chance to whine. E.g., “Waiters of Reddit, what one little thing can I do to make your life easier?” or “Waiters or Reddit, what is your worst ‘customer from hell’ story?”

9) Submit a “LifeProTip” of something incredibly stupid you can do which in theory would increase the efficiency of your everyday life. For example “LifeProTip: Count out the direction/number of paces to exit your home and office. That way in the event of an emergency, you can do this in the dark”

10)  Submit a picture of a beautiful sunrise at any US national park.

What “Success” Looks Like:

I contend that “full success” will be if any of the posts make it to the front page at any point following their submission. “Half success” will be if any of them crack the top 100, and “failure” if not a single one achieves the top 100.

This might be the most cynical thing I have ever attempted, I am pretty excited.

Thank You For Honking

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Note up front – I thought of the title of this post and then went looking for a photo. This photo of the clown is undoubtedly creepy but it was just too appropriate to pass on. I think that is sort of a metaphor for this blog: speaking truth to power no matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel. That and characterizing late 20’s cynicism as introspection and worldliness.

Anyway, on to the post, which on the surface is SF-centric, but I promise has a general takeaway. The question- why are people so bad at driving in San Francisco?

It’s a Fact:

I know everyone likes to bemoan the state of their local driving conditions, but this is not just my opinion – State Farm actually released a list of the worst driving cities based on average accident rates, and San Francisco was #9 on the list. That rank becomes even more surprising when you realize that almost all the other cities on the list are northeastern cities prone to far worse weather conditions than San Francisco. Weather is no small matter- a study by the NIH concluded that precipitation significantly increased crash rates and that 28% of all vehicular crashes occurred in adverse weather. The only two warm weather cities in the top ten? San Francisco and Glendale, CA. Let’s stick with SF for now, but I think their problem may be the same.

Reason 1: City Life Be Tough

This would be the argument that San Francisco is fundamentally a difficult city to drive in. I tried to find an objective measure of this, but unfortunately could. My overall read is that while the quality of the roads are below average, SF conditions are no easier/harder than most urban environments. Plausibility 2/10

Reason 2: Demographics

The stereotype (I can’t emphasize enough that this isn’t own personal opinion…sort of). Is that the culprits of a city having “bad driving” could come from a disproportional number of women, the elderly, or Asian people. Let’s see if any of these hold up (I will be brief here, read the linked reports if you have any problem with it)

  • Women
    • Does SF have more than usual? No (fewer than the national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents – Yes (12% higher non-fatal accident rate)
      • Fatal Accidents – No (men have an 80% higher fatal accident rate)
  • Elderly
    • Does SF have more than usual? No (roughly same as national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents – No (about a third of the average rate)
      • Fatal Accidents – Yes (marginallybe  higher, though that could because being so old makes you more likely to die in the accident)
  • Asians
    • Does SF have more than usual? Yes (~6x the national average)
    • Do they actually drive worse?
      • Non Fatal Accidents –TBD, no data found
      • Fatal Accidents –  No (lowest of all ethnicities)

Given how many Asians there are in SF, I really wanted to know the Asian non-fatal accident rate but couldn’t find it. Reports would indicate that it makes sense that particularly Chinese immigrants are poor drivers due to the inordinate proportion who are first-generation drivers. I suspected it would be the same as for women, where the stereotype is supported by the data that women are more likely to back into cars at Walmart but less likely to try weave through traffic at high speed and end-up being the meat in a semi-sandwich. Overall Plausibility 3/10.

Reason 3: Poor “Training”

This is my pet theory, but I actually think it makes sense. The reasoning goes that because everyone is so “kumbaya, it’s-all-good-dude” in the Bay Area, no one ever honks at all the bad drivers, so most folks are oblivious to how horrible they are and never get their act together. I unfortunately only have anecdote here, but in my judgement you can get away with far worse driving in SF than you ever would in the east coast. If you drive like a jack-ass in Philadelphia, you will hear about it from someone in about 0.2 seconds. You can basically go all day driving in the middle of two lanes in SF, but as long as you stay away from the all-sacred bike lane, no one will have much to say about it. It makes sense that the same “tolerant and non-judgmental” behaviors which has made SF the most socially liberal city in America and causes private schools to forgo grades in favor of hugs and stickers, also makes people less likely to lose their shit over poor driving etiquette. I say, Plausibility 7/10.

I also say screw tolerance when it comes to driving. I just want to get where I’m going as efficiently as possible. So for that I say- thank you for honking.

Quick Hits on the Oscars (with a nod to Peter King)

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Five things I think I liked about the Oscars (no particular order):

  1. Birdman killing it – definitely did not expect the old white dudes at the Academy to go with the awesome, but very alternative, Birdman when there was so much obvious Oscar-bait being waved in front of them (civil rights struggles, ALS, WWII AND homosexuality?!)
  2. That little bit of irreverence at the top of the show with NPH noting the Oscar’s celebrate “Hollywood’s Best and Whitest”
  3. Soaking up Anna Kendrick’s…err…outfit, yeah let’s say outfit. (plus seeing her stand over Kevin Hart was hilarious)
  4. Not playing favorites with the “In Memoriam” section- always seemed in bad taste when they showed clips or had extra applause for some folks but not others in prior years
  5. Hearing Lady Gaga actually sing. Somehow that is refreshing these days.

Five things I think I didn’t like about the Oscars (no particular order):

  1. “Everything is Awesome” can’t be The Lego Movies’s contribution to the Oscars, it was too good for that. The true irony is that “Everything is Awesome,” like the movie itself, appears very superficial, but is actually highly layered, and a commentary about how should follow your own instincts and not have your creativity quashed by others (I am not even joking).
  2. I still just don’t care at all about roughly half of the categories they show (e.g., short documentary, short animated film, sound mixing), the Oscars was 3.5 hours long this year. I think we all know it is about entertainment. Let’s trim the fat.
  3. I really wanted to see NPH actually reveal his predictions at the end, but was disappointed to see that it was just another gag. Weak Tea. No “Keepin’ it a Hunded” sticker for him.
  4. Sean Penn taking so long to announce the Best Picture winner. Come’on man, it is not about you. Everyone already thinks you are a self-centered douche, don’t play into their hands.
  5. The audience being flat. I thought NPH was solid, but seemed like a quiet crowd. You would think a bunch of millionaires enjoying the most self-congratulatory day of the year would be in a mood to enjoy themselves.

Same Ol’ Song and Dance

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For those of you who are fans of Reddit, NPR, and everything in between (because everything else does fall between those two), you might have already seen the amazing mashup of 6 hit country songs by aspiring country artist Harry Nilsson. For those who did not, check out the video below.

As Nilsson confirmed in an interview, the point being made here is that there is clearly a hit “formula” of sorts which is being repeated, conscientiously or not. The “formula” is so clear that you can find 6 recent hits that are lyrically, structurally, and tonally similarly enough that they form a coherent “new” song when layered on top of each other.

Where I land on this type music, however, is that it’s fine because it’s catchy, it gets people laid, and no one is saying it is something more than what it is. It is actually a common joke within country music that there are a lot of repeated themes. The Rascal Flatts song “Backwards” even puts this to lyrics, noting everything you get when you play a country song backwards (hint: everything).

What is annoying is when you have stupid, formulaic blather exalted as deep and intellectual. Which leads me to Part I of my (potentially) multi-part series – “Things Guaranteed to Sell Records.”

Things Guaranteed to Sell Records: Opposites

For this first shot over the bow of intellectual dwarfism (they don’t like to be called midgets), I focus on a specific subset of emo white guy guitar music- singing about opposites. While that sounds overly specific, once I dig in with a couple examples I am sure many others will spring to mind and you too can write an emo white guy “opposites song” (emo white guy not included).  My two case studies for this will be the Jason “can I buy a vowel Pat?” Mraz song “Life is Wonderful” and the recent Passenger hit “Let Her Go.”

First Jason:

You’ll notice Jason’s sheer genius here- take the first stanza:

It takes a crane to make a crane, it takes two floors to make a story,

It takes a hen to make an egg, it takes an egg to make a hen,

There is no end to what I’m saying

  1. Where DOES he get this magic with words? The paradoxical nature of birds and eggs? And how it is circular that one begets the other?! It seems like that applies to many situations, if only there were a well-known saying which captured this…
  2. I LOVE the bold choice of having really simple lyrics and then not even bothering to make them rhyme. Most people invest in one or the other.

Now Passenger:

Two more points here aside from the ridiculous simplicity of stating opposites in a whiny voice:

  1. Am I the only one who imagined Passenger as a small African man? I was shocked to learn he is a fucking English white guy. To be unnecessarily specific, in my mind’s eye I saw him as a small African guy (like the main pirate in Captain Phillips), sitting in a log cabin looking out a window longingly around dusk watching snow accumulate on the window sill.
  2. He has the gall not only to sing about opposites, but roll in the over-used trope of “you don’t know what got till it’s gone.” Joni’s Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” covered that back in 1970, and clearly it resonated so much it was covered by FOUR MORE ARTISTS since then (I liked the Counting Crows version best myself).

Anyway, enough said – I leave you with a diamond in the rough, which I am convinced would hit #1 with enough airtime.

Docs For The Long Run

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Every Buzzfeed writer out there will tell you the same thing- it is all about the headline when it comes to hooking readers. And by god, I have done it again with this beauty. For you nimrod’s* out there who need explaining to, this title is obviously a play on the best-selling financial book Stocks for the Long Run by economist Jeremy Siegel (UPENN product)…because this blog post includes a discounted cash-flow analysis of doctors’ earnings. Aaaaaaaaaanyway, on to the “fun.”

Besides the fact that I like making excel models (don’t blame me, my mom dropped me on an abacus as a baby), this post was triggered this past weekend when a good friend notified me of his acceptance into a medical fellowship program.  Though I knew he was applying, somehow I was struck by how odd it seemed to have friends still in “training,” waiting for their professional careers to begin. Upon review, I realized that I actually did not know a single fully-practicing doctor in my peer group, despite graduating almost eight years ago. Despite laying the odd-egg, none of us are spring chickens anymore and that seemed like a long time to put off earning that top Doctor Dollar, so I wanted to dust off the ol’ “Alt-O+C+A” (that auto-adjusts column width btw), and see for myself what it meant.

One last caveat – I know analyzing other folks’ earnings is not a good recipe for making/keeping friends so let me throw in the obligatory note that I know there are many very good reasons to become a doctor other than money and I am grateful so many choose the profession. I know my life’s work to date hasn’t exactly earned me a spot with FSM in the afterlife (if you need to ask who FSM is you aren’t going to be there either, so don’t worry).

The Method: (entire model with all assumptions linked here)

I went straight up discounted cash flow (DCF) on this biatch. For those unfamiliar with this approach, the very simple version is that you take money earned in future years and discount it back to what it is worth today. So for example, presuming you can get a 10% return in the stock market, $1.10 one year from now is worth $1 today.

The assumptions and sources for my model were:

  • How much does medical school cost
    • Note I have not included interest on medical school loans since that is just deferring payment, so if the interest rate equals my discount rate it is the same as paying the full amount during medical school
  • How long do doctors train by specialty
  • How much are doctors paid in residency/fellowship, upon first starting to practice, and mid-career by specialty. I ended up cutting the analysis by three groups:
    • Top Tercile (third) Earning Doctors – Assumed 7 years of residency/fellowship. This is mostly surgeons/radiologists and some specialists.
    • Mid Tercile Earning Doctors – Assumed 5 years of residency/fellowship. Mostly non-surgery specialists.
    • Bottom Tercile Earning Doctors- Mostly pediatric, family medicine, and internal medicine.

Lastly, I needed to compare these discounted cash-flows to some alternate career path. Presuming our would-be doctors are smarter than the average bear, I picked the national median average for engineers as a comparable occupation. What the WSJ says that looks like is:

  • $60,000 salary out of college
  • Ramp up to $105,000 salary 20 years into your career

As a side note, I was shocked this average was so low, but that is what living in San Francisco for five years will do to you.
The Madness (The Results):

I charted the results as the post-tax, cumulative earnings, discounted to present day (2015) dollars. Other than medical school, there are no expenses included in this analysis since the point is to see the difference in cumulative post-tax earnings between a doctor and an alternate profession. Since both have to buy food, rent, etc., that is a wash between the two and I can just focus on earnings after I account for medical school. (PLEASE CLICK TO ENLARGE)

3yr 3

5yr 3

7 yr 3

Interpretation/Commentary:

I would love to have folks leave comments on whether the results surprised anyone but these are my key takeaways:

  • It takes a long time to get back to even: Since higher paying specialties require more years of training, I found it interesting to see that they all breakeven (relative to the alternate profession) around the same time, at 18-21 years. That said, ~20 years feels like a long time to me since that means you are hitting 40 before you actually have more money than you would have in an alternate life being a middling engineer likely working a 9-5, 5-day-a-week existence.
  • I want to be a top-tercile earner or the alternate engineering-role: Obviously easier said than done and there are many work-life consideration I have not factored in- but based on the pure monetary options here, existing in the 2nd and 3rd tercile of earners “only” gets you $200k-250k more 2015 dollars across your entire working career. Unfortunately nowadays that only pays for one incremental kid’s private college tuition and/or a nicer house in exchange for decades of study/hard work and professional rigidity. While perhaps still not for me, I can see the lure of almost doubling your cumulative post-tax lifetime earnings and getting $600,000 more 2015 dollars, which puts you in the “Mercedes out front, nice house, kids-go-to private-school” camp .

Is this common knowledge? Do pre-med’s factor this in?

In my estimation: No. Heuristically it rings true that “doctor” is thought of as among the best-paying occupations in the world. I went to a Jewish pre-school, trust me, it starts early. Upon doing a little research, it appears that doctors themselves enter the profession with that same impression. A recent survey by Medscape indicated that almost half of all doctors regret going into medicine, with pay (especially in light of recent cut-backs) being a primary driver of that displeasure.

In addition to many pre-meds perhaps not having the clearest view on the monetary outlook of their careers, my impression has always been that choosing to be a doctor has a huge amount of preselection bias. By that I mean that you already have to be somewhat wary when a profession requires people to essentially opt-in at the age of 18. Additionally, if it is the type of profession which young children are familiar with and can start to identify with at an early age, it only increases the chance that they become fixated on it to the exclusion of other options. By contrast, no small child has ever wanted to be a “alternative payments-platform salesman” or an “educational-tech operations specialist” or a “mid-cap private equity associate.” One piece of evidence for this is the inordinate number of doctors who have at least one doctor parent. A NYT article cited a Mount Sinai physician who found that one third of residents had a doctor parent and estimated the national average to be closer to 20%.

Final Thoughts:

Some readers may be doubting my subjectivity since every over-wrought analysis arrives at a conclusion which seemingly reaffirms the decisions I personally have made in life. I promise there is a very good reason for this. Believe it or not, I actually think through my life in the nerdy, utilitarian, overly-egged-pudding manner which my blog maps out. I am sure my ex-girlfriends can attest to how attractive that is in a man.

Again, no dis-respect to all the doctors out there, between my Indian genes,  idea of “red-blooded American fun,” and riding a motorcycle, I likely will need you guys at some point.

*for you dedicated readers who made it to the bottom of the post, I have a mediocre trivia morsel for you to regurgitate to friends: Nimrod is actually an Old Testament king renowned for his hunting prowess. Hence Bugs Bunny referred to Elmer Fudd as “Nimrod” in cartoons, which has historically been mistaken as an insult, and thus nimrod is often used today to mean “stupid or dense.” Again, very attractive of me.