The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Warren Buffett collected money at a young age. By 14 he owned a farm, in which a share cropper shared profit with him. Buffett likely had the goal to be the richest man on earth, but still conducted his life to keep the feelings of others in mind, and to be highly ethical.

Buffet did not just make money for the sake of it, but for the thrill of it. He was a man who followed the natural intellectual development of his business. I suspect, like most billionaires, it was Buffet's curiosity and fascination which drove him, and the money flowed afterward.

Buffet refers to his business almost as a series of happy accidents. Something that came together from an expression of himself, but that was not necessarily planned. As if nature put together Berkshire Hathaway, currently one of the top 20 largest companies around. I think many entrepreneurs: Bill Gates, Google, etc...would espouse this view of business. That nature was waiting for it to happen, and like an idea of its time, it came together like art expressed by one individual over a life time.

This is a great read about life and business.

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith. This is a great book that could also be called: The Technically Minded Guide to Creating Great New Tech Businesses. Woz's book is one of the first that opened my eyes to how a computer works, and it is also filled with so much enthusiasm and fun it is inspiring and compelling. Woz embodies the spirit of the valley. From giving his stock options away to other employees, to keeping an open mind, and mistrusting the media, Woz covers a lot in this book. I personally like it because:

  1. Woz is a nerd, and spills some truths that I as a nerd am happy to see someone else discuss.
  2. Woz is fair minded, and looks for data to explain everything. He reminds me of Richard Feynman.
  3. Woz is honest and ethical.
  4. Woz is great at explaining electronics and taking some of the mystery out of them.
  5. Woz encourages technical people to work alone in making inventions, and to boot strap instead of seeking venture capital.

This is a great book if you want to start a company, learn more about how computers were invented, learn more about Apple, and also, have fun along the way.

Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality by Jonathan Weiner

Long for This World takes a look at the history of the science of aging and immortality. Weiner writes in a light and entertaining style, and though it seems the book jumps around, Weiner is making a lot of points about the mechanism of science and research as we know it, as well as the science of aging.

The truth of the matter is that most of the science of aging itself has focused on a lot of debate among biologists, gerontologists, and people in general, as opposed to any concrete research. The debate revolves around questions such as: Is aging a disease in itself that needs to be cured? Or is it a collection of degenerative conditions and diseases? Can aging be cured via a few universal key therapeutic advances? Or is an endless complicated fight against nature than man can never master?

From this question Weiner waxes philosophical, quoting Dante and other poets, writers, and philosophers about what life is and whether we should even reach for immortality, or a state of permanent youth. Of course, a big figure in this debate is Aubrey de Grey who has long advocated limitless lifespan and rejuvenation research. Aubrey, as a theoretical biologist with an honorary PhD from Cambridge has honed aging down to seven deadly things which once cured will cause humans to be in a state of perpetual youth. Because of this, Aubrey is heavily featured in the book, over other scientists in the history of the science of aging.

Of course, the main point of this book is to try make a framework, and a public understanding, of what the science of aging is attempting to do, and what it could be, that there are still a lot of compelling and outstanding questions like:

  • If simple animals, like Hydra, do not age, can humans do the same?
  • Can people find a cure all? And end to all disease and degradation?
  • Do the fundamental laws of biology and our existence allow for real advances in the science of aging?
  • Is it better to focus on a key regulator of aging? Or try to cure the major problems of aging: cancer, macular degeneration, neurological degeneration, and cardiovascular disease?
  • What will happen to reproduction and evolution if people are ageless?
  • All these questions deserve thought and research. The results will truly be interesting. I recommend Long for this World as a compelling, fun, and interesting read.

    I also recommend my own website: Science of for further information and resources.

A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes

A Rage in Harlem is a good depiction of life in poverty and bad surroundings. Through the hero, Jackson, we see how one man has to fight to keep his head above water in a world that is not there to be his friend. This is one of those novels that pulls you in and has you turning pages, wondering what is going to happen next. Himes is great at writing, and throws in brilliant descriptions everywhere. A Rage in Harlem is also a semi-comedy with something of a happy ending. I strongly recommend A Rage in Harlem.

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

Well, I had previously reviewed this book but liked it better on the 2nd reading. It puts finance both in the perspective of biological evolution and as a business that can be driven by helpful innovations.

It is worth reading, especially if you are interested in the history of finance and how capital drives growth in economies.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

This is the "official" biography of Steve Jobs, meaning that Steve Jobs opened up to interviews and sharing his life, which is something he had not done before. The book is compelling and inspiring. Steve Jobs is portrayed as being ruthless, but of course, he is only to follow his driving passion, which is to make great products.

This book is a great read about where a life can take you, and an inspiration rags to riches story of a risk taking entrepreneur. Steve Job's biography somewhat mirrors that of Craig Venter, in the fact that both a rebellious geniuses who could enterprise and create large organizations.

A new format for Scientific Papers

Bret Victor, the original UI designer for the Ipad, has come up with a great way to visualize scientific papers and bring them to life with code.

Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc (BRLI) - A Case Study for Penny Stocks

Bio Reference Labs was started in December of 1981 and remained a penny stock for 20+ years, when in 2001-2002 it started to break into the $5 range, after being in the 50cent range for years. The stock is now worth $20 today. Part of the stocks' success is no doubt due the hard work, burning vision, and effort of its founder and still President/CEO Dr. Marc D. Grodman, M.D., who was and still is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and Assistant Attending Physician at Presbyterian Hospital, New York City.

What is the lesson for penny stock success?
Bio Reference Labs teaches two lessons. The first is that success with penny stock investing tends to involve years of patience, and the other is that it often needs a dedicated founder who can see it through. I would likely invest in BRLI, except that I often take issue with these lab diagnostic companies, who are either regulated into not being transparent, or choose not to be. You go to the doctor to get your blood tested, later they bill you. The process is not obvious how much you will be billed. Things need to change. I hope BRLI is working towards that change.

Edit: BRLI owns Care Evolve, which seeks to modernize medical offices and make the whole process more transparent. May they succeed.

Conferences on the Biology of Aging

Thanks to John Furber at Legendary Pharma for this list.

Gordon Research Conference on Aging, Biology of
"The Genetic, Epigenetic, Inflammatory, and Metabolic Origins of Aging"
February 12-17, 2012, Ventura Beach Marriott, Ventura, California

Chairs: Nir Barzilai, James L. Kirkland & Heidi Scrable
( Note: An affiliated Gordon Research Seminar for graduate students and postdocs will take place on the preceding two days. Separate registration is required. )

Stem Cell Research and Aging
March 1-2, 2012, Buck Institute, Novato, California

Organizers: Brian Kennedy, Lisa Ellerby, Victoria Lunyak, Thomas A. Rando, Alan O. Trounson
Early bird registration discount before 31 January 2012.

Gordon Research Conference on Autophagy in Stress, Development & Disease
"Autophagy - A Universal Biomedical Paradigm"
March 11-16, 2012, Four Points Sheraton / Holiday Inn Express, Ventura, California

Chairs: Vojo Deretic & Sharon A. Tooze
( Note: An affiliated Gordon Research Seminar for graduate students and postdocs will take place on the preceding two days. Separate registration is required. )

Third International Fascia Research Congress
March 28-30, 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Experimental Biology 2012 (FASEB)
April 21-25, 2012, San Diego Convention Center, California

Genetics of Aging and Longevity
April 22-25, 2012, Moscow, Russia
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
Gerontological Society of Russian Academy of Science
International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (European Region)
Early registration by 1 Dec 2011. Abstracts by 1 Feb 2012.

American Aging Association 41st Annual Meeting
"Interventions Now: Targets, Tactics and Timing"
June 1-4, 2012, Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel, 200 Main Street, Fort Worth , Texas
Meeting Chair: Michael Forster, PhD
Abstracts deadline: 14 March 2012.

Gordon Research Conference on Lysosomes & Endocytosis
June 17-22, 2012, Proctor Academy, Andover, NH
Chair: Michael Marks Vice Chair: Beverly Wendland

Harvard/Paul F. Glenn Symposium on Aging
June 18, 2012, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

(Free Registration)

OCC World Congress - Oxygen Club of California and University of Turin Joint meeting
"Oxidants and Antioxidants in Biology and Medicine: Cell Signaling and Nutrient-Gene Interactions"
June 20-23, 2012, Alba, Italy,
Organizer: Giuseppe Poli [email protected]

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting on Aging
"The Molecular Genetics of Aging"
October 9-13, 2012, New York
Organizers: Steven Austad, Judith Campisi, David Sinclair,
Abstract Deadline: July 27, 2012

Gerontological Society of America
65th Annual Scientific Meeting
November 14-18, 2012, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California

Abstracts deadline: 15 March 2012.
"Late Breaker" Poster Abstracts are due 15 September 2012.

Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President by Ron Suskind

Well, what can be said about Confidence Men by Ron Suskind? It feels like a documentary with an overt biased angle, but still does provide some insight in the financial crisis, the subsequent bailout, and Obama's presidency. It is an issue which is easy to pick at. However, Suskind seems to draw more on emotions and vague situations that clarity and hard facts, statistics, and so on. Suskind's writing style is also very unique, he gives you the impression of being the fly on the wall, to tell it like it is. Well, just to show you, I will now write the rest of this review in Suskindian style.

[ start suskind ]
Rom Suskind had to do something, he knew he had to write, he had to write a book. But a book about what? That was the question. What hot button issue could Ron write about? Critics had wondered for ages what Ron would write about and now, Ron was deciding. He decided to write about the financial crises and the bailout. Yes, no one understood that issue well, and Ron could write about it. That is what Ron did, he wrote about the crises, and politics, and Obama. He used a keyboard and typed it. That is what he did. After that, he went on a promotional tour to sell the book, The Daily Show, and other shows like that. He wanted to sell copies of his book. So he did a promotional tour, and copies sold. Ron Suskind made money from his book. That is what happened. Obama just stood by while Ron Suskind made money from his book. Obama didn't even try to stop him. Is it even legal to make money from a book like that? At least, that is what Ron Suskind did. And that is the story of Ron Suskind's book: Confidence Men.
[ / end suskind ]

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

-Langston Hughes

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