Archive for March, 2012

Meetings that don’t Suck

March 18, 2012 2 comments

If there’s one thing I learned from my involvement with clubs, research etc… it’s that meetings suck, but they don’t have to. Here are my own ideas on how to run more effective meetings that don’t bore people (seriously there should be workshops on how to run effective meetings):

1. Meetings should be aimed at solving problems. If there’s no problem, there’s no reason to call a meeting. Simply going over status updates is a waste of time when one can simply email everyone else the same information. Also it’s not the best time to introduce new people to the team and socialize. I’d rather meet new people at less formal occasions such as lunch or icebreaker events.

2. Come prepared so you can contribute to the discussion. The one calling the meeting must email a well-defined agenda to all other participants well ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect.

3. Discuss ideas, not brainstorm them. The problem is already defined in the agenda so everyone is expected to have given it some thought beforehand (see #2).

4. Invite only the relevant people. If I’m not needed, I don’t want to be there. Running meetings are costly. If ten people attend a one-hour meeting (and it should not be longer than that), that’s ten hours you have taken away collectively that could have been spent doing something else. Therefore if you call a meeting, it better be worth the time.

5. Stay focused and stay on topic. Any and all discussion has to involve everyone present. You can talk about what you did last weekend or the most recent episode of Nikita (btw it’s a great series) after the meeting. This also means no cell phones. I’m not a doctor or firefighter so there’s no one whose life depends on my answering calls/texts within five minutes. If they can’t wait an hour for your response, that’s their problem, not yours.

6. Designate someone to take minutes and share with everyone else after the meeting. It’s pretty obvious since most meetings already do this. This means there’s no reason to hold several meetings due to scheduling conflicts or having to recap the previous meeting at the current one. Everyone who received the minutes already know what happened.

7. End with a to-do list. Meet again to discuss isn’t an acceptable to-do item. That means you didn’t accomplish anything. When you walk out the door, you better know what your new responsibilities are. Anyone failing to follow through their obligations should be dealt with privately, not during a meeting.

Categories: Life

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Just to let you guys know that this year’s Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC) will be held next Saturday March 24 in Irving K.B. Learning Center (on UBC campus). I recommend any student interested in a career in research to attend this conference. You’ll get to network and see what your fellow undergrads have been up to. You’ll have to register here.

Categories: Bulletin, Research, UBC

Poker 101 – Beginner Basics

March 15, 2012 1 comment

Hold’em is a relatively easy game to learn, but difficult to master because your actions depend on the current situation (ie your position at the table, stack size, your opponents’ playing styles etc…). I won’t cover specific situations here (maybe for another entry), but just random generalizations for beginners.

Ideally you want to sit directly to the left of a professional to minimize his or her advantage because for most of the game, he or she will have to act before you. If there’s thing to take home from this long entry, it’s this: POSITION IS POWER. If you’re the first to act, then you’re at a big disadvantage because you don’t know what the people after you are going to do. Information is critical because the best players are the ones who make the best decisions.

For beginners, it’s best to play a tight-aggressive strategy. This means you play few starting hands (again maybe for another entry), but the ones you do play, you bet aggressively. This allows better control of your chip stack so you can grasp the flow of poker until you feel comfortable varying your style. I follow two basic rules when playing starting hands:

1) Don’t limp in if you can’t call a raise preflop. I usually fold weak ace (ace with a ten or lower kicker)  in early position because if someone else raises after me, then I’m already at a disadvantage before seeing the flop. If I hit the ace on the flop, I won’t know if my kicker is strong enough (many times it isn’t) so it isn’t worth the trouble playing that hand.

2) Don’t play a suited hand if you wouldn’t play the same hand unsuited. Chasing for flushes or straights isn’t a good idea. If you miss your flush, you won’t win the pot and if you hit it, other players will notice the potential flush on board and may not pay you a lot so it’s not worth the investment.

On a side note, yes pocket aces is the best starting hand, but sometimes overrated. Many beginners will win very little or lose very big with this hand. If you’re holding two aces, then chances are that no one else has an ace so they likely won’t see the flop. I usually raise with pocket aces. You actually want to limit the number of players who see the flop and minimize your chance of getting bad beat by a player. Against a random hand, pocket aces will win 83% of the time. That means against four other random hands, pocket aces will win the pot only 47% of the time. No longer impressive right and I guarantee you that anyone calling to see the flop won’t be holding any random hand.

Bluffing is very profitable and an integral part of the game. If you bluff $100 to win a $300 pot, you need to be successful only 33% of the time to break even. Don’t bluff to steal a small pot because you are risking your chips to win very little. Likewise, don’t bluff for a large pot either because the people are already pot-committed meaning they will likely call whatever you bet. There are two important considerations to bluffing: what you think other people have and what other people think you have. If you suspect someone has a big hand, then they will call your bet. Likewise you must also consider what other people think you have because if they don’t think you have a strong hand then they can call your bet even if they have a mediocre hand. Here’s an example of a bluff:

An average player will think only about the cards other people are holding. If you want to be a good player, you have to think what other players think you have. Go up one more level and you’ll have to think what your opponents think you think they have. Every action you make gives away some degree of info and good players will pick up on that. There’s no avoiding that so you have to take advantage of it. You have to think about what your opponent is thinking. Let’s say you limp in and the flop is K-5-3 with two diamonds. You check, your opponent bets and you call. Now your opponent is putting you on a flush draw so you have to play like you ARE on a flush draw. If a diamond comes out on the turn, you bet so other players will think you hit a flush when in reality you are bluffing. If a diamond doesn’t come out, you can’t bluff because your opponent thinks you’re on a flush draw so if you bet, he or she will call your bluff.

Categories: Sports


March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I don’t think I’ve ever been trolled this badly before…but seriously this is the number wau video math geeks (and everyone else) should watch…

Categories: Humour

Riddle – Prisoners and Hats

March 2, 2012 1 comment

My grade twelve calculus teacher asked our class this five years ago. I like this riddle a lot because of the elegance and simplicity of its solution 😛 :

A sadistic prison guard plays a game with 10 of his prisoners. He has the prisoners all line up facing one way so the one at the front of the line is #1 and the one at the back is #10.

After lining them up, the guard then places either a red hat or a blue hat on top of each prisoner. The prisoners can’t see their own hat colour, but can see the hats of all prisoners in front of them (ie #10 can see the hats of the 9 people in front of him, #8 can only see the 7 hats in front of him etc…). The guard then goes up to #10 and asks what colour his hat is. #10 can respond only either “red” or “blue”. If he is wrong, the guard will shoot him; otherwise, he’s free. Regardless, the prisoner then proceeds to #9 and asks the same thing, then to #8, etc.

Once a prisoner announces either “red” or “blue” all the other prisoners will hear it although they won’t know the fate of that one prisoner. Also assume all the prisoners have good memory so they will remember what each of the previous prisoners said (ie #8 will remember what #9 and #10 said, #7 will remember what #8,9 and 10 said etc…).

Before this game, the prisoners are allowed some time to discuss their strategy before lining up. What should their strategy be so they can guarantee to save the most lives?

Here’s an example of one possible strategy: Prisoner #10 says the colour of #9’s hat. Then #9 says that same colour he heard so he’ll live. The process is repeated with #8 saying #7’s hat colour, #6 saying #5’s hat colour etc… This will guarantee 5 lives, but isn’t the optimal strategy and you can do a lot better.

**For those who solved the riddle, please don’t post the solution in the comments so other people can still have a chance to solve it.**

Categories: Riddles