advice and tips

My blunder on presenting today

Today I made a pretty bad mistake on my presentation. Basically, I messed up my audio shortly after I got started, and I was not aware of it for about 6 minutes or so: until I realized I was kicked out the meeting. The audio issue was caused by my airpods losing battery, and I switched to the bluetooth headset. But it appears the airpods is still connected as I did not put the airpods in the pod (partially due to presenting, and I was a bit overwhelmed). Because the airpods was making noise, my colleague dropped me from the meeting, which I did not realized as I was switch between the tabs on Chrome web broswer: the meeting was just a tab and it was not obvious.

Going forward, I am going to implement two changes: no two bluetooth devices at the same time (again due to not complete switch over or disconnecting issue); also I am going to pull out the google meet tab to its own window so that I can be made aware.

Remote working brings a lot of convenience, and it brings a lot of challenges too (remember the lawyer’s I am not a cat incident on Zoom?). One thing I think it’s important is the empathy. I think the place I am working is okay, but not perfect. Without getting too much details, I feel I did not get much support, rather received some criticisms instead. There are better ways to handle that. If I am a leader, I would handle it differently.

advice and tips

Covid vaccine in St. Louis county

St. Louis County COVID-19 Vaccines (pre-register)

Providers (hospitals in alphabetical order)




St. Luke

Precautions / things to pay attention before taking vaccines.

advice and tips fun kids

Holmdel BOE election



betterholmdeleducation (Platform)

data, media (social media, year sign, email etc)

Linda Zhang

Irfan Lateef



Ladue School Board Candidate Q&A With Sheri Glantz ” If funding allows, adding the option of Chinese to our foreign language department would be a priority.” (do I hear any volunteer here? Kidding. I mean a part time Chinese instructor to be serious)


5 Candidates State Their Positions on Ladue School District Issues

Jeff Kopolow, Dan Regelean Elected to the Ladue School Board (data)



BOE results: Glantz, Goldstein won (out of 5 candidates)


BOE results: Johnson, Kopolow won (out of 3 candidates)


FB: Kisha Lee: The Key to a Stronger Ladue (2017 Meet the Candidates Night; won again in 2020 run #unopposed). From my recent memory Kisha is the first African American woman to be elected to Ladue BOE. As you may have read from above, she started in 2013.


Glantz and Goldstein Re-Elected to Ladue Schools Board of Education

for more detailed information on election, refer to County Board of Election (citizen can request)


results (county board of election): Johnson, Kopolow won out of 3 canidates

2020: there was no election on this year and the incumbent ran #unopposed (there was no new comer). The bylaw says that if there is no bond issue, and there is no new comer, there is no need for election.


Marissa Rosen 4 Ladue April 6, 2021

Procedure to file for BOE

Board Briefs (blog)

Official web site

advice and tips kids

Where to buy masks

Masks are much more widely available, and much more widely accepted now, compared to the early days of shutdown, or in February when the US was not directly impacted by COVID. I recall buying masks at Chinese grocery store, also at the (a subsidiary of Alibaba that serves customers outside of China). Also friends in China sent in some. All those are one time use “surgical type” or “dusk” masks. The quality was okay but great. Now those are more widely available in large websites or stores as well: Amazon, Costco, Walmart etc. The price came down as well.

But I am not a big fan of one time use masks. I had one cotton mask before the pandemic, and I used it a lot (I do need to wash it more often). Recently I found those Hanes masks are good or decent. They have 50 packs as well. It comes down to $2.50 per piece. I already received it, washed it, and started using it. I think one person can use one mask per day, just like undergarments. Use Code “SAFE20” for Extra 20% Off.

Also, some kids (and their families) in Ladue school, started this stl mask project: the money raised will be donated to operation food search.

I noticed some special purpose masks such as masks for running as well. Those cost a bit more than normal ones (see below), as cotton ones could easily cause sweat.

Last but not least, I think custom made or the name on mask can have some values, especially for teachers or healthcare workers. I found Etsy have some (adult personalized mask, adult custom name mask, and reusable kids mask).

(Update 07-20-2020) Found this deal on surgical masks at ebay. I ordered 300 🙂 Note I am still not big fan of one time use masks, but I plan to donate some and save some. Recently I found out I could misplace masks at home or in the car, so that’s the main use of one use masks.

advice and tips finance

CAGR compound annual growth rate of one of my IRA account

This IRA account was a bit unusual, as I took some meaningful losses earlier on. Then from 2017 (maybe a little bit more earlier, but I only have the balance history since Jan 3, 2017), things started to look up. In last 3.5 years, the CAGR is about 54.54%. My bigger winner during this time was $HUN, and more importantly $OKTA. This is the chart.

And the formula to do it via Google chart. Basically I imported the CSV (downloaded form broker website) into google sheet, and used the default chart, and added the formula for CAGR compound annual growth rate. Last but not least, one may adjust the formula a bit (maybe retype it), in my case, I used this formula: power (end value / beginning value, 1.0 / number of periods) . The ^ symbol (at least as I copied and pasted) seems have some issues, so I used the math power function, which is same as the ticker ^ symbol here. The period is year here, as I was looking for the annualized return.

Last but not least, this does not depict the full picture of my personal investments. I made some dumb mistakes here or there, and also, I put most of my 401k money in stock mutual funds (some in S&P 500 funds).

(Update 07-21-2020) The annual return is 13.34%, as shown in the chart. There was two meaningful drops in last 12 months. For comparison, the S&P 500 was up 9.25 % in last 12 months and Berkshire Hathaway was down -6.65% in the same period (yahoo Finance chart here).

In retrospect, I did not do well when I trade too much. One reason for more trading is since last last year, TDAmeritrade stopped the trading fees. Rohinhood was free since its beginning (2015?) and I did decently well in its early days. Then I got into sort of slump. This is similar to my main trading account (IRA at TDAmeritrade), I did well in 2017 and 2018, perhaps early half of 2019 too. But was just so-so in last 12 months (again refer to my chart). Update: actually I did not do very well in 2017 (+25%), but I did exceptional in 2018 (up 100%), then followed by 50% in year 2019. Overall still decent.

advice and tips finance

Review 401ks II

Today I started to look at other 401k accounts I have and evaluate whether I need to make any adjustments. This is a continuation of my earlier post.

In the past I do looked at them from time to time, but was not on a fixed schedule or anything. But I did start making some adjustments in last year or so, to my couple portfolios. For example, I got rid of the international funds in my Siemens 401k plan, I believe those will continue to underperform over the US equities in next 10 years or so. Most US companies are international companies too: I looked at the US large cap fund, the top 5 holdings are Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Facebook. And its performance in last 1, 3, 5 and 10 years (10.5% vs 10.5% annualized) is fairly comparable to S&P index. Note in my earlier post I mentioned I am mostly keen on 10 years performance. Because we were mostly in a bull market in last 10 years (2010 to 2020). I recall Sept 2008 and March 2009 were two market lows last time around during financial crisis / great recession. So this is a bit confirmation of the market effect.

For this Siemens 401k account, I actually don’t plan to do anything today. I did update the address, since I moved from condo to current single family house in last August. I will still have a few more portfolio to look, as you can see from my linkedin profile, I changed job a bit in last 10 years or so. And I mainly used two choices when I deal with the 401k: leave them alone (for the most part); or move them to IRA (applicable to my 401k when I was in contractor position, as they usually will not let me leave the money there). I end up with 2 IRAs over the years, and a few more 401ks. Maybe at some point, I will consolidate, as management of those can become more tedious. As a minimum I need to have user name / password for them. The only place they have single sign on is the credit card company I worked for. A bit off topic, I recall a gentleman who used to work for Disney, and he said Disney has at least three SSOs. Then my colleague commented then it’s MSSOs 🙂

advice and tips kids

Had a small scare at Creve Coeur lake

Today I had a small scare at the CC lake. I was chatting with friends while keep an eye on Sophia the 5 year old. Serenity the 10 year old went paddle boarding with friend with their moms permission. I found out after the fact, and when I asked the moms (my wife and Serenity friend’s mom), who were watching them, they said “we don’t know where they are on the lake”. This made me start to worry. Our quick response is, we rent a kayak to search on the lake. We asked around, not seeing them, increasingly worried, and even thought about calling 911. At this time I asked if we can use “find my iPhone” to find the girl, because the other girl’s mom hanged the phone on Serenity’s neck. It eventually worked, and we found them not too far from where they started, and it’s near the bank too. We were relieved, and did a bit more kayak afterwards.

My lesson here is make sure Serenity has her own iPhone, and help her learn how to use. Basically the friend’s mom called the girls twice, and the girls did not pick up the phone properly (accidentally pressed the “declined” button, thus the ensuing panic). Because this time she had friend’s mom’s iPhone on her neck while she was paddling / using the roar to push forward. And we had to call her friend’s dad to run this “find my iPhone” to pinpoint the particular device. I also want to make sure we have better network: maybe Verizon or AT&T for my whole family down the road. Right now both my wife and myself have mint mobile which uses t-mobile network, and it’s considered not as good as the VZ and T.

Serenity’s mom’s thinking is we should keep an eye on them all the time, unfortunately due to the size of this lake, it’s a bit impractical.

advice and tips

Covid etc

First I want to make a quick announcement, I moved my website from to as I decided no longer paying for the domain name Today incidentally I found people grabbed my previous domain.

Back to topic, while the guard for Covid is way down in the US. Please note it’s not completely gone yet. In fact the cases are going up in rural Missouri and many other states such as Arizona. A few months ago I create a file in the Covid repo on GitHub. The websites I used to look up the US information are still valid: 1point3acres and coronainusa . I also follow Chris Prener (a SLU professor) and he has some good updates and charts for Missouri Covid as well. Such as this one. His GitHub repo here.

advice and tips finance

Adjusted my 403b fund allocation a bit

Move some money from the two vanguard funds to the higher return funds. I usually looked at the 10 year return. I understand past return does not guarantee future success, but still…

current allocation: moving from vanguard small cap index and real estate index to Hartford and Janus, refer to below for the performances (two the large number columns, left is 10 year annualized return, the right is the annual return since inception)
Fund info
advice and tips

Special Occasion Speech: to Graduates in 2020

It’s the worst times, it’s the best times. Pandemic and recession at the same time. For me the best part is spending some quality time with my wife and kids, the worst part is I have not got a haircut for over 3 months.

All these will pass. For college graduates or post college graduates, find something meaningful while living in your parents house, or basement. If Uber retracted the offer for your software engineer job, you may want to find something in the local schnucks or instacart, while continuing to pursue your dream in software development, be a mentor in launch code, apply to jobs at the fields that are still hiring: from Amazon to Walmart…

For high school graduates: your senior year or graduation is really unique, isn’t it? No proms or graduation like in the past: a lot of car parades or yard signs. My 4th grader daughter is graduating from her elementary school this year and I got a flavor of it. I have been in a similar boat in my life regarding college too: I was not accepted to a college of my first choice. I do believe most of you have received admission to colleges or know where you will go next. You may or may not know the status of “will college open or not”? Is it going to be online plus some in person class, or everything online like Cal State? We don’t know. We will find out as time goes. Hope the colleges make the right decisions in the circumstances.

In summary, I want to say don’t be afraid of the unknown or setbacks. Or even small failures. I still remember the night before I boarded the flight to the US for graduate school in 1997. I went to bed after packing all the stuff (managed to close the luggage box), then I could not fall asleep due to all this uncertainty. Step out of our comfort zone, what does not kill us will only make us stronger.