August 18, 2008

What Would You Do With An Extra $1,000,000,000?

Filed under: General — Cory @ 12:04 am

About a year ago I watched “The Rockefellers“, a PBS documentary about the famous “rags-to-royal” American family. The documentary was fascinating, but something that stuck with me was what John D. Rockefeller Sr. did with all the money he accumulated.

In the late 1880′s if you had a lot of money and wanted to “give back” then you would support soup kitchens or homeless shelters, or give to churches. This is how charity worked back then. But when Rockefeller decided to begin giving back he had a small problem: how was he to give away hundreds of millions of dollars?

You may remember Brewster’s Millions, the movie where Richard Pryor plays Montgomery “Monty” Brewster and is tasked with spending $30 million in 30 days in order to test his value of money. Rockefeller had a similar task (although he certainly knew the value of his hard earned bucks). It’s like going into a dollar store and being told you have to spend $10,000 before you can leave. It would be a lot harder than you think.

Rockefeller, like Andrew Carnegie, disliked the idea of funding soup kitchens primarily because he saw it as a sort of band-aid approach to giving. Giving to those less fortunate was indeed a noble thing to do, but he felt that it did nothing to move humanity forward. Instead, Rockefeller took a page from Carnegie’s essay “The Gospel of Wealth” and formed The Rockefeller Foundation with his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Together they gave large sums of money to support education, particularly to help start colleges for African Americans in the southern states, as well as to fund medical research. They gave $35 million to help jump start the University of Chicago. They restored Colonial Williamsburg and Versailles (yes, that Versailles). They donated tens of thousands of acres of land to create several national parks. They supported science, and built churches. To date their foundation has given away over $14 billion dollars, and still has around $4 billion in assets today.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both had the same problem as John D. Rockefeller Sr. After much research, Gates decided to model the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation after the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Buffett followed his lead and nearly doubled the size of the foundation when he pledged to donate $30 billion dollars worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock over the next few years, bringing the total endowment to nearly $70 billion.

Like Brewster, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a deadline. The foundation has to give away its last penny within 50 years of the death of the last living trustee. The foundation has three trustees: Bill Gates (currently 52 years old), Melinda Gates (44), and Warren Buffett (77).

The primary goals of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are to improve health care and decrease extreme poverty around the globe, and to open up more opportunities for education in the U.S., especially with respect to technology.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. once wrote:

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty”

It sounds almost like a quote out of Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” essay. Andrew Carnegie was convinced that successful wealthy entrepreneurs had a duty to dispense their wealth back into the public, preferably through calculated giving to worthy organizations. He felt that there was a responsibility to do good things with ones wealth, and that future generations who would inherit the wealth were prone to squandering it in less than noble ways. Soup kitchens did not qualify for Carnegie’s charity, nor those who couldn’t be bothered to help themselves. Carnegie funded more than 1,700 public libraries across the United States because he felt it could give less fortunate individuals a way to get ahead if they just were willing to put in the effort.

It is an interesting problem, to say the least. These men all used their creative abilities to amass enormous amounts of wealth, more than they could ever spend in a lifetime. (Andrew Carnegie tried to spend it all, and when he realized it was impossible he created the first philanthropic trust in the United States, the Carnegie Corporation so that it would be able to continue spending after his death.)

It got me to thinking about what I would want to focus on if I had the resources of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. It seems that most of these efforts are focused on third world countries, which no doubt need the most help. But I think I would invest in science and education in the United States. It’s pretty clear that the U.S. has fallen behind in our science programs (stem cell research, anyone?). And the state of our public education system is a also serious problem, not just for the students, but also for the rest of us. After all, we have to live with the citizens those schools are producing (they will be our neighbors, our coworkers, and most importantly, they will be voters). It’s quite scary, really. I’m not sure the problem with the U.S. public education system can be completely solved, but I am sure it’s something that can be improved. I also believe it’s a problem where money can help a lot (almost certainly more than $1 billion though).

What issues would you focus on if you could start a foundation with $1 billion?

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June 29, 2008

The New Value of Mathematics

Filed under: General — Cory @ 2:07 am

I have a degree in History, although I spent my first two years of college as an Economics major. Sometimes I wish I had have stuck with it (I bailed when I had to start doing serious math). Other times I wish I had pursued physics, or something in electronics, or sociology. Lately though I’ve been thinking more about mathematics, and this article really makes me wish I understood it better.

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June 27, 2008

Magnetic Migraine Miracle Device

Filed under: General,Technology — Cory @ 1:44 am

Richard told me about this magnetic migraine reliever a while back, but it looks like it’s finally about to come out of testing:

The device, about the size of a hair dryer, is put up against the back of the head, and users push a button to administer the magnetic pulse. The study showed it eliminated the headache within two hours for 39 percent of participants; 22 percent in the placebo group reported no pain two hours later. Study participants used the device twice per migraine episode within an hour of experiencing an aura. Up to three migraines were treated per patient over a three-month period.

The article says this device is primarily for migraine sufferers who experience auras. I’ve never gotten auras, but I do have intense pain behind my eyes during a migraine, and supposedly this device can help with that as well. The only way I can explain that pain is to imagine someone shining a strong flashlight directly into your eyes from about 5 inches away. And this doesn’t stop until the migraine is gone, which can take days.

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June 22, 2008

Tom Waits at Jones Hall

Filed under: General — Cory @ 11:24 pm

Awesome show

Posted by corywright on Natuba

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June 17, 2008

Skateboarding Fail

Filed under: General — Cory @ 11:37 pm

This is PAINFUL to watch…

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June 14, 2008

Not to get too political…

Filed under: General — Cory @ 8:33 pm

But this man needs to make up his mind!

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June 9, 2008


Filed under: General — Cory @ 5:11 pm

From the Migraine Blog:

Imitrex had U.S. sales of approximately $1.12 billion for 2007.


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June 1, 2008

Mac/Linux Up, Windows Down

Filed under: General — Cory @ 11:06 pm

Before I say anything, I realize that these are small numbers, but this month Mac and Linux each had record high market share numbers, while Windows reached a new low. The iPhone’s market share also hit a new peak. :)

Over the last year the Mac has gained almost 2% market share, while Windows has dropped a little more than 2%. I’d like to see Mac get to 10% and Linux to 1%, and with their current growth rates that might only be a year or two away.

Dude! Sweet!

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May 30, 2008


Filed under: General — Cory @ 10:49 pm

Do we really need a whole book about tagging?

Posted by corywright on Natuba

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April 18, 2008

Meat on Swords

Filed under: General — Cory @ 9:16 pm

At Nelore

Posted by corywright on Natuba

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