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2008

Good judgement?

This has been picked up all over the place, so you might have already seen it. I thought it was good. There are many sections that are quotable, I pick just one. You should just read the whole thing, as I said, picked up all over the place.

"[snip…]I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.[snip…] (from Portfolio.com)

Halo: Supposed to be the most unbelievably great Video Conferencing system

Halo, from HP. Really?

Unfortunately it is outrageously expensive. Can't find the number online but I heard 50-100K.

"The Halo studio—designed by DreamWorks Animation in partnership with
HP—provides life-size, real-time, eye-to-eye conferencing with
outstanding audio and no delay. Halo gives the sense of being in the
same room together. And best of all, it's right down the hall." (from Introducing Halo)

Weapons of civic mass destruction

I am struck by how broken our political process is. I'm not the first nor the last to make this observation, How did we get here and what are the underlying reasons?

Here's one way I have started to look at it: we have perfected the science of persuasion to such a point that it is now destroying us. Here's what I mean:

In the world of CNN and YouTube, all questions, answers, comments and remarks are all very carefully honed with an eye towards what it would look like out of context, or as a soundbite in a commercial.

Each candidate has top notch advisers and trainers, the best in the business. They are like world class athletes at the olympics. Every move is rehearsed and practiced to perfection. No mistakes are allowed.

They make sure that whenever they open their mouths whatever comes out is what's most effective (statistically, scientifically, whatever) to persuade.

To persuade who? Of what? That too is science. Who exactly , demographically, sociographically, are the folks who need to be convinced so that I win? What do they have to be convinced of?

The effect of all this is that every word we hear spoken by the candidates is programmed. Programmed to have certain effects on the electorate. We aren 't hearing the real person, their real beliefs or ideas, in either case.

Anyway that's my interpretation of why campaigns and political speech has devolved as much as it has, and why we all shake our heads in amazement at what passes for political discourse.

We have created and perfected this weapon which I think of as the science of persuation and we are watching two parties engaged in what amounts to mutually assured destruction ("MAD").

Now I am getting nervous… Cramer wants me to sell everything?

Check out this post Henry Blodget: Should You Really Panic And Sell Everything Like Cramer Says?:

"On the Today Show Monday morning, Jim Cramer told investors to sell everything and get out of the stock market. A Wall Street friend described this as the market's "Munchian scream moment."" (from: from Huffington Post: Front Page)

If you think stronger regulation is a good answer, heed Buffett

Check out this post If you think stronger regulation is a good answer, heed Buffett:

"Warren Buffett gave a three-hour interview in August. Here's an interesting bit from the transcript:

QUICK: If you imagine where things will go with Fannie and Freddie, and you think about the regulators, where were the regulators for what was happening, and can something like this be prevented from happening again?

Mr. BUFFETT: Well, it's really an incredible case study in regulation

because something called OFHEO was set up in 1992 by Congress, and the sole job of OFHEO was to watch over Fannie and Freddie, someone to watch over them. And they were there to evaluate the soundness and the accounting and all of that. Two companies were all they had to regulate. OFHEO has over 200 employees now. They have a budget now that's $65 million a year, and all they have to do is look at two companies. I mean, you know, I look at more than two companies.

QUICK: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BUFFETT: And they sat there, made reports to the Congress, you can get them on the Internet, every year. And, in fact, they reported to Sarbanes and Oxley every year. And they went-wrote 100 page reports, and they said, 'We've looked at these people and their standards are fine and their directors are fine and everything was fine.' And then all of a sudden you had two of the greatest accounting misstatements in history. You had all kinds of management malfeasance, and it all came out. And, of course, the classic thing was that after it all came out, OFHEO wrote a 350-340 page report examining what went wrong, and they blamed the management, they blamed the directors, they blamed the audit committee. They didn't have a word in there about themselves, and they're the ones that 200 people were going to work every day with just two companies to think about. It just shows the problems of regulation.

QUICK: That sounds like an argument against regulation, though. Is that what you're saying?

Mr. BUFFETT: It's an argument explaining-it's an argument that managing complex financial institutions where the management wants to deceive you can be very, very difficult.

" (from: from Newmark's Door)

Esther Dyson on the Coming Ad Revolution

Esther Dyson wrote this very interesting Wall Street Journal article about how online advertising is changing. This article is very relevant to my new product, SWIFT, which I have hinted about before. She says:

"The current online-advertising model will become less effective, even as it gets increasingly sophisticated. New players are emerging to devalue the spaces that the ad giants are currently fighting over. Companies you've never heard of called NebuAd, Project Rialto, Phorm, Frontporch and Adzilla are pitching tools to Internet service providers that will enable them to track users and show them relevant ads.

This approach (called behavioral targeting and already in service by ad networks that track users through so-called tracking cookies) undercuts traditional online publishers, who employ content to lure users and to sell adjacent ads. Now, the ISPs can sell advertisers direct access to the same users." (from Wall Street Journal)

I suggest you read the whole thing.

Big Numbers

Like everyone else, I've been following the drama on Wall Street, Main Street, Washington DC and so on.

Bless their hearts, they have posted a document called "firstdraft.pdf" to allow the masses to examine the bill which will authorize the bailout (a bit of irony?)

It's way over my head, but a quick scan does reveal some rather large numbers being bandied about…

Wow!!!!

A couple of interesting articles

A very interesting article in Edge.org (by the way, an always interesting site.) This one is called Moral Psychology and the misunderstanding of religion:

"I study morality from every angle I can find. Morality is one of those basic aspects of humanity, like sexuality and eating, that can't fit into one or two academic fields. I think morality is unique, however, in having a kind of spell that disguises it. We all care about morality so passionately that it's hard to look straight at it. We all look at the world through some kind of moral lens, and because most of the academic community uses the same lens, we validate each other's visions and distortions. I think this problem is particularly acute in some of the new scientific writing about religion. " (from Edge.org)

And a totally different, yet equally interesting article: "Smart Taxes: An Open Invitation to join the Pigou club". Among other things, you learn in this article what Pigovian taxes are:

"My topic for today is a policy about which there is a particularly large gap between economists and the public: Pigovian taxation. In particular, I want to talk about taxes on energy-related products, such as gasoline taxes.

Not long ago, the economist Steve Levitt, coauthor of the best-seller Freakonomics, wrote on his blog, “For a long time I have felt the price of gasoline in the United States was way too low. Pretty much
all economists believe this.” Levitt then went on to argue for higher taxes on gasoline.

At about the same time, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had precisely the opposite perspective. She announced “a series of hearings to address rising gas prices—focusing on the causes, the burdens they put on American families and businesses, and solutions.” (from "Smart Taxes: An Open Invitation to join the Pigou club")

Surprising and against conventional wisdom: Americans still love to buy DVDs

Interesting article about the sale of DVDs in Silicon Alley Insider:

"Just a reality check on the video download/rental business: There
really isn't one yet. At least not compared to good old-fashioned DVD
sales and rentals." (from "Forget iTunes: Americans still love to buy DVDs")

Interesting article. I wonder, what about music CDs?

iTunes 8 Genius is calling home

I just downloaded the new ITunes 8. It has this new thing called the iTunes Genius which seems like it is going to help me create play lists or something. Maybe it's gonna out Pandora Pandora or Last.FM. Don't know exactly what I am getting but I pushed the big red button and got it enabled.

I got curious though when I saw the CPU pegged for a while and saw this 'progress bar':

Looks like iTunes is giving me a colonoscopy and sending all the results to Apple.

Now I love Apple but this gives me a little bit of the creeps. I have no secrets (that I know of) buried in my play lists.

Still.

Anyone?

itunes tags playlists colonoscopy