Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wall Street Kid and Daylight

So I've been obsessed with actually beating Wall Street Kid. I started keeping track of the prices on paper, and then switched over to a spreadsheet. After 3 games I finally bought the house (I probably would have got it in the second game but I accidentally agreed to buy it early). Turns out, there are 4 different types of stock and each week 2 of those types are doing well, and all the member stocks will tend to go up. There is no penalty for buying and selling so you want to buy and sell every day if needed. To make a long story short, after about 3 hours of logging data I used the strategy of buying whatever stock did best that day, usually the same stock does best all week. Buying the house is only the first level, but once you have it you can get loans, and it makes it pretty easy so I stopped playing. Note that I was getting about 20-25% a week by buying the best stocks. If you bought all the stocks in the types doing well you'll average about 15%. You have 4 weeks to turn 500k into 1000k so you need at least 19% a week, or 3.75% a day.

So I was reading something that mentioned that due to the Earth elliptical orbit the summer is longer than the winter. This meant that contrary to my long held belief the year did not have exactly equal amounts of day and night. So I put the sunrise/sunset data for a year into a spreadsheet and figured out exactly how much extra daylight we were stealing from the southern hemisphere (since they had extra night for our extra day). Turns out there are 4,644 hours 43 minutes of daylight per year, while you'd only expect 4,380 hours given 12 hour average daylight. Meaning we get an extra 264:43 of daylight every year, or 1:26 per day.

I've been wanting to start a new thread here for a while. I've been doing a lot of research about astronomy, so I was going to start with a email about that, but surprisingly I've been to lazy. But I am reading the first book I've read in months, and I like it a lot, so this email will be about that. It's called Predictably Irrational, and it's about how people behave irrational, but in a predictable manner, I'm not sure where they got the title from. Here's the review where I learned about it:

From the review I immediately compared it to Freakonomics, which I liked a lot, but if I remember you read and didn't really care about. Well I've attached it, so you can read it if you want. If you do you may want to not read my thoughts on it, as it'll be sort of like spoilers.

It starts with an example I've seen before, possibly on Slashdot, and that I may have written about in a past email. It is a supscription scheme for some economics journal. They had 3 options:
1. Internet-only subscription for $59.
2. Print-only subscription for $125.
3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125.

When I gave these options to 100 students at MIT' s Sloan School of Management, they opted as follows:
1. Internet-only subscription for $59—16 students
2. Print-only subscription for $125—zero students
3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125—84 students

However when he removed the middle option, the one no one picked, he got different results:
Au contraire! This time, 68 of the students chose the Internet-only option for $59, up from 16 before. And only 32 chose the combination subscription for $125, down from 84 before.

What could have possibly changed their minds? Nothing rational, I assure you. It was the mere presence of the decoy that sent 84 of them to the print-and-Internet option (and 16 to the Internet-only option). And the absence of the decoy had them choosing differently, with 32 for print-and-Internet and 68 for Internet-only.

And then there's this:
An ironic aspect of this story is that in 1993, federal secu­rities regulators forced companies, for the first time, to reveal details about the pay and perks of their top executives. The idea was that once pay was in the open, boards would be re­luctant to give executives outrageous salaries and benefits. This, it was hoped, would stop the rise in executive compen­sation, which neither regulation, legislation, nor shareholder pressure had been able to stop. And indeed, it needed to stop: in 1976 the average CEO was paid 36 times as much as the average worker. By 1993, the average CEO was paid 131 times as much.

But guess what happened. Once salaries became public information, the media regularly ran special stories ranking CEOs by pay. Rather than suppressing the executive perks, the publicity had CEOs in America comparing their pay with that of everyone else. In response, executives' salaries sky­rocketed. The trend was further "helped" by compensation consulting firms (scathingly dubbed "Ratchet, Ratchet, and Bingo" by the investor Warren Buffett) that advised their CEO clients to demand outrageous raises. The result? Now the average CEO makes about 369 times as much as the aver­age worker—about three times the salary before executive compensation went public.

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