Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thank God, we Britts have a great sense of humor!

One of the best accounts about how financial markets work and the reasons behind the subprime fiasco. You gotta be British to come up with something like this. Enjoy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The new mortal sin of getting obscenely rich and its sinners...

Read this NYT article by Andrew Ross Sorkin and tell me if my tastes are right about these spoiled bastards who got together to pretend they wanna save the planet and make some extra billions in the process. Virgin boss and hot-air balloon pretentious adventurer 'Dick' Branson assembled a bunch of nitwits nouveau riches on his private Necker island. They were invited to talk about global warming during a 'think-tank' weekend, with bottomless containers of booze, food to their heart's desire (hopefully not British 'cuisine' fish and chips style) and imported (call)girls in bikini's (normally poodle-naked but for the sake of gamespoil Tony Blair they had to show-up in bikinis, soit disant...).

Here's an excerpt:

“So, do we really think the world is on fire?” Mr. Branson, the British magnate and adventurer, asked several guests as a manservant scurried off to fetch him another glass of pinot grigio.

What he wanted to know was whether his high-powered visitors, among them Larry Page of Google, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain, thought global warming threatened the planet.

Mr. Branson does — and so did most of his guests. So on this recent weekend they assembled here, on his private hideaway in the waters between the islands of Tortola and Anegada, to figure out what to do about it and perhaps get richer in the process..."

That's what FSJ had to say about the event...

"...For example, Branson asks, "Do we really think the world is on fire?" Of course the other nitwits say yes, yes, yes, oh yes, the world is definitely on fire, a major catastrophe is right around the corner, oh my God, yes, it's terrible, fire everywhere, conflagration, the planet is melting -- and oh, Tony, could you be a dear and pass me that amazing tarte Tatin and just a smidge of that whipped cream? Lovely. And then let's do some more windsurfing and Jimmy can go bother the whores.

Never mind that we just had an incredibly cold winter in North America and huge record snowfalls across the continent. As Al Gore said to a bunch of us the other day, these record cold spells and record snowfalls are actually caused by global warming. To which Jerry York replied, "Jeez then I guess we better stop this global warming before we all fucking freeze to death, eh?"

Are the seasons shifting?

I've been living in Flanders for more than 30 years now and all I can remember is that we never had a white Christmas. Sometime mid eighties we had a bad winter for three weeks starting January 1st, getting as low as minus 15 to minus 20 Celsius and that's it. Further, Easters have always been early and windy and wet. Nothing compared to the Eastern Orthodox Easters with people assembling in the garden to roast their lambs. Of course, Eastern Orthodox Easters fall late April even reaching May sometimes, whereas, the Catholic Easter is rather early. This year though it has broken all records in living memory. Even daylight savings for 2008 has not kicked-in yet (in Europe at least).

It seems it will take at least another 160 years before we get Easter that early. Since I have never had the chance to live a white Christmas, good Lord has been so kind to give me the experience of white Easter. Click on my picture shot this morning and surf to my Flicker set to see for yourself.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Looking at this makes you more creative.

A recent article at the Wall Street Journal concludes that looking at a logo (in that case Apple Inc's logo) can increase your creativity! Read an excerpt here.

"You don’t need to be a Mac owner to be a cutting-edge hipster. Turns out just thinking about Apple can make you more creative.

Subconsciously seeing this will make you more creative
That’s according to researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo, who found that exposing people to a brand’s logo for 30 milliseconds will make them behave in ways associated with that brand. And in Apple’s case that means more creatively, Gavan Fitzsimons, one of the Duke professors who conducted the study, tells the Business Technology Blog. The study will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Scientists have long debated whether subliminal messages, the idea that subconscious exposure can shape behavior, really work. In recent years, the consensus opinion has tended towards no. But most studies measured if subliminal messages caused people to buy products. Fitzsimons and his colleagues wondered if the exposure resulted in behavioral changes that don’t show up on the balance sheet.

To find out, they exposed subjects to imperceptible images of brand logos for Apple and IBM (as well as logos for other non-tech companies). Surveys found that people felt similarly about the two companies in every way except creativity, where Apple came out ahead, and competence, which was IBM’s perceived strength. After exposing them to the brands, the researchers asked subjects to describe as many uses for a brick as they could..."

continue reading

Thursday, March 20, 2008

News to die 4...

Researchers are always looking for the magic bullet to kill cancer, and now they may have found it in a surprising place, a glass of beer! (Who knew?) It turns out that hops, which is the flavor component of beer, contains a cancer-fighting compound called xanthohumol.

Xanthohumol turns out to be toxic to several kinds of human cancer, including prostate, ovarian, breast, and colon. Further, it inhibits enzymes that can activate the development of cancer, and also helps detoxify carcinogens. It even seems to slow down tumor growth in the early stages. Scientists are trying to produce hops that contain even more xanthohumol, and the Germans are racing to develop a healthy beer.

But wait - there's more! Other compounds in hops are potent phytoestrogens which may help with post-menopausal hot flashes and also prevent osteoporosis.

Beers that provide the most benefits contain the most hops, and include strong brews such as ale, stout, and porter. In general, the darker the beer, the better. For those who can't stand beer, herbal supplements made from hops contain the highest concentrations of beneficial elements.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why not? I'm born Greek after all!

Could that be true? Wow!

Read this news flash carefully: What does this mean for the future of online legal downloads of music?

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc is in talks with major music companies to offer customers free access to its entire iTunes music library in exchange for paying a premium for its iPods and iPhones, the Financial Times said.

Citing people familiar with the talks, the paper said the negotiations hinged on a dispute over the price Apple would be willing to pay for access to the labels' libraries.

One industry executive said research showed consumers would pay a premium of up to $100 for unlimited access to music for the lifetime of a device, or a monthly fee of $7-$8 for a subscription model.

Apple was not immediately available for comment."

Does this mean that, if you pay an one time fix fee when you buy a new iPod, a fee that Apple will return to the labels, then you'll be able to download any song from iTunes to your heart's desire, without paying any more dues? Can you believe this? How is this gonna work for new titles? Microsoft is already paying a buck back to the labels for every Zune sold but this is not the same with what the article above touches upon, right? I mean, if the article proves true, then, WOW!

Some positive news after all.

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Visa Inc (V.N: Quote, Profile, Research) burned its name into the record books for U.S. initial public offerings on Tuesday, raising $17.9 billion as investors seized on its growth potential and lack of direct exposure to the global credit crisis.

San Francisco-based Visa, the world's largest credit card network, sold 406 million class A common stock for $44 per share, above the forecast range of $37 to $42.

Visa will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Anticipation for the IPO was high on hopes it will emulate the success of smaller rival MasterCard Inc (MA.N: Quote, Profile, Research), whose shares have more than quadrupled since its 2006 IPO..."

Is that one very early signal that we are reaching the bottom? Who knows. Time will only tell. Read the remaining of this article here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nokia Morph, or how the Fins got scared shitless of the iPhone, not?

The future is bright. Even if half of the concepts these folks are developing find their way into end-user products this world promises to be fun to live in, other than the climate damage and melt-down glaciers, that is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Dollar sucks real bad...

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar's value is dropping so fast against the euro that small currency outlets in Amsterdam are turning away tourists seeking to sell their dollars for local money while on vacation in the Netherlands.

"Our dollar is worth maybe zero over here," said Mary Kelly, an American tourist from Indianapolis, Indiana, in front of the Anne Frank house. "It's hard to find a place to exchange. We have to go downtown, to the central station or post office."

That's because the smaller currency exchanges -- despite buy/sell spreads that make it easier for them to make money by exchanging small amounts of currency -- don't want to be caught holding dollars that could be worth less by the time they can sell them.

The dollar hovered near record lows on Monday, with one euro worth around $1.58 versus $1.47 a month ago.

(Reporting by Svebor Kranjc, writing by Reed Stevenson)

Oh my God, we are braindead!

Who trusts banks anymore?

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - An Ethiopian farmer who stashed his life savings of more than 12,000 dollars in a haystack has lost almost one-third of the deposit to rats who gnawed it away, state media said Thursday. The 52-year-old farmer from central Ethiopia, whose name was not given, preferred the straw pile for fear of losing his riches in case fire broke out in his house. "Some 35,000 (3,804 dollars) of the 114,000 birr (12,391 dollars) which was hidden by a farmer in hay near his house ... was devoured by rats," the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported. ENA said the man, who spurned repeated advice to use a bank instead, found out three weeks after he deposited the cash that he had lost part of it to the stealthy vermins. "Though he was advised to deposit his money in a bank, he refused to do so for a long time," ENA added. The agency did not say whether the farmer had changed "banks" after the rat raid.

In a Belgian newspaper it was also mentioned that the farmer had no problems losing his money to the rats than to some incompetent bank. Who can blame him?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Like anybody cared about what he had to say...

The dude is from another planet... pity we still have to wait another 10 months to see him go.

Dedicated to Stelios

Who cares about accounting if one can dance...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Social interactions

An article recently published by Nature magazine about social interactions is worth thinking about the unknown laws of nature as they apply on the subject of human interactions.

Two Microsoft researchers analyzed during the month of June 2007 all the traffic that took place via Microsoft Messenger around the globe. The stats are mind blowing. Thirty billion conversations with a quarter of a trillion messages exchanged among almost a quarter of a billion individuals from around the world during just one month.

The sample was huge and the researchers were looking for patterns, not the content of messages or the subjects of conversations. Read the article for more interesting stats about the sample. The point of interest they discovered though is a seemingly fresh confirmation of the famous six degrees of separation that Stanley Milgram of the Harvard University established in a 1967 experiment.

What this means is that they found that if you selected two chatters at random, say one from Rio de Janeiro and another from Beijing, then you need an average of 6.6 steps to reach one from another. That means that the guy or gal from Rio connects thru Messenger to another guy or gal from say US who connects to some guy or gal to Moscow, who connects... until the guy or gal in Beijing is reached... in just six to seven connections. The magic number six as the degree of separating anyone in the globe of 6 billion people to anyone else seems to hold for mega samples compared to the hundreds involved in the Milgram experiments.

Mind blowing, innit?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eliot Spitzer's wet dream...

Someone once mentioned that a man's IQ goes down with his zipper... QED, dumb ass Eliot Spitzer threw an entire career to the bins. A career that might have even led him to winning some future Democratic Party nomination for President as Mr. Integrity himself, just for a pair of paid-for orgasms with hot babe Kristen shown here. If you are curious to find out more about her looks link to this.

Was she worth it? Nay! No woman is worth losing a career that you worked your ass off to build. But, it happens... to the best of them sex-hungry suckers. Like I said... their IQ turns into double digits at the sight of some hot babe figure and a pair of supertits...

BTW, see what FSJ says about that Spitzer dude:

"... I guess we're all supposed to feel sorry for Eliot Spitzer now that he's been rounded up in some hooker sting. Oh please. First of all he's not getting busted for the hooker thing but for funny business with money, which if I recall correctly was what he used to rail against. This asshole spent years bringing bogus charges against honest businesspeople and blackmailing them into accepting "deals" rather than face a barrage of bad publicity. Worse yet, he did this not in the name of justice but in a craven attempt to make a name for himself and boost his political career.

Trust me, if you've ever been harassed by the feds over some bogus charge, you know exactly what kind of humongous assholes they are. Absolute scumbags. Ruthless, amoral bastards. Ten times worse than most of the people they're trying to prosecute. Oh well.

Best detail for me so far is finding out here that this idiot paid $4,300 for a hooker. Of course now that piece of ass is gonna end up costing him a lot more than that..."

Right on the money! As always... Well done Steve!

Un Uomo...

From Bill Gates' testimony before the US Congress:

"...During the last 50 years, the world has witnessed truly revolutionary advances in science and technology.

I am optimistic about the potential for technology to help us find new ways to improve people's lives and tackle important challenges. I am less optimistic, however, that the United States will continue to remain a global leader in technology innovation. While America's innovation heritage is unparalleled, the evidence is mounting that we are failing to make the investments in our young people, our workers, our scientific research infrastructure and our economy that will enable us to retain our global innovation leadership.

In particular, I believe that there are two urgent reasons why we should all be deeply concerned that our advantages in science and technology innovation are in danger of slipping away. First, we face a critical shortfall of skilled scientists and engineers who can develop new breakthrough technologies. Second, the public and private sectors are no longer investing in basic research and development (R&D) at the levels needed to drive long-term innovation.

If the United States truly wants to secure its global leadership in technology innovation, we must, as a nation, commit to a strategy for innovation excellence--a set of initiatives and policies that will provide the foundation for American competitive strength in the years ahead. Such a strategy cannot succeed without a serious commitment from--and partnership between--both the public and private sectors.

1. Strengthen educational opportunities for young students: Too many of our students fail to graduate from high school with the basic skills they will need to succeed in the 21st-century economy, much less prepared for the rigors of college and career. Although our top universities continue to rank among the best in the world, too few American students are pursuing degrees in science and technology. Compounding this problem is our failure to provide sufficient training for those already in the workforce.

2. Revamp immigration rules for highly skilled workers: Knowledge and expertise are the essential raw materials that companies and countries need in order to be competitive. We live in an economy that depends on the ability of innovative companies to attract and retain the very best talent, regardless of nationality or citizenship. Unfortunately, the U.S. immigration system makes attracting and retaining high-skilled immigrants exceptionally challenging for U.S. firms.

I want to emphasize that the shortage of scientists and engineers is so acute that we must do both: reform our education system and reform our immigration policies. This is not an either-or proposition. If we do not do both, U.S. companies simply will not have the talent they need to innovate and compete.

3. Increase federal funding for scientific research: Federally funded research supports the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers, those who will largely determine whether the United States remains innovative and globally competitive. Government support was critical, for instance, to the development of public-key encryption technology, which became the foundation for most e-mail applications, digital certificates and virtual private network software, as well as non-Internet technologies such as ATMs and credit card machines. Research initially conducted by NASA has been applied to improve the safety and effectiveness of angioplasties and breast cancer detection. Funding from the NSF led to the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. And of course, the Internet itself has its genesis in ARPANET, a project of the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Unfortunately, federal research spending has been stagnant or shrinking over the past several decades. According to the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation, "[a]s a share of GDP, the U.S. federal investment in both physical sciences and engineering research has dropped by half since 1970. In inflation-adjusted dollars, federal funding for physical sciences research has been flat for two decades." This stagnation in spending comes at a time when other governments, such as in China and the E.U., are increasing their public investments in R&D ... As a nation, our goal should be to increase funding for basic scientific research by 10% annually over the next seven years.

4. Incentivize private-sector R&D: Private companies are often in the best position to engage in the kinds of applied research and development that yield useful new products. Yet the inevitable pressure on companies to generate profits and maximize shareholder value may deter them from investing heavily in R&D, particularly since these investments are often viewed as riskier than other investments.

While understandable, the reluctance of U.S. companies to invest more heavily in R&D is deeply troubling. If one looks at the personal computer industry, for instance, much of the foundational work for the industry was done in the private sector, at venerable institutions such as Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. Companies today, however, often seem less willing to invest heavily in R&D--or at least seem to focus most of their spending on development and relatively little on true research.

If the United States is to remain a leading innovation economy, U.S. industry must invest more in R&D. To spur this needed investment, Congress should reinstitute the R&D tax credit, which expired last year, and make that tax credit permanent. Doing so would help convince American businesses that longer-term R&D investments--especially those that might take years before they generate any profits--are worthwhile.

I believe this country stands at a crossroads. For decades, innovation has been the engine of prosperity in this country. Now, economic progress depends more than ever on innovation. And the potential for technology innovation to improve lives has never been greater. If we do not implement policies like those I have outlined today, the center of progress will shift to other nations that are more committed to the pursuit of technical excellence. If we make the right choices, the United States can remain the global innovation leader that it is today..."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A dead cat bounce and the Emperor's Club Vip...

How about yesterday's Dow 3.55% jump and almost a 4% jump for the Nas, in the middle of a US recession? Is that just a dead cat bounce? I think so. The reason for yesterday's enthusiasm was to be found in Bernanke's pumping 200 billion of liquidity into the system to relief some of the pain caused by the subprime led disaster of the US economy. The markets were looking for some reason for a short term recovery, albeit a fake one. Don't hold your breath. Short sellers will resume activity very soon now and yesterday's gain will melt like a snowball in hell, in a heartbeat! Sorry for putting things this way but that's what history taught us so far. C'est la vie, as Britts would say.

In the meantime, to keep news networks real busy, we got this case about the NY Governor Eliot Spitzer not being able to keep his zipper up and willing to fool around with classy (1500 $ an hour plus) hookers. Ain't the US of A beautiful? I don't mind sneaky Eliot screwing a hooker, but I despise hypocricy and don't have much sympathy for this sonovabitch since he's pretended to be Mr. Perfect for so long, winning governorship on the back of his "integrity" as a Prosecutor going after financial fraud in Manhattan and around Wall Street in particular, and also against... prostitution. It's probably there he discovered the Emperor's Club VIP and his 105 pound petite brunette. Anyways, he must have been a real asshole to be sending SMSs to his lady and pay for her services via bank wires. I guess many of his past victims are gloating and laughing their ass off! What a moron!

Little white bitten apple...

Screenshot captured from streaming video of the Jon Stewart Daily Show at the Comedy Central. Reason I did that is to show the increasing penetration in the TV media, news, soaps, documentaries and in Hollywood movies of those silver gray laptops with a white Apple (logo) illuminated in the middle of the backside of the TFT. These are the famous MacBook Pro's that only cool dudes own and wanna be seen carrying around. Not bad for a brand that only holds single digit percent part of more than a billion PCs out there.

We got three of those in the family (only the men are cool enough for this, so it is I, and the two boys) whereas the daughter enjoys a classy 'black' Macbook and the spouse is still loyal to her Windows Vista (albeit cursing it more often than she'd want to). Of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't own the latest and greatest with a 2.5 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of internal memory, a Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT with 512 VRAM and a 7200 RPM 200G hard disk. With some cool MultiTouch on that slick trackpad. Anno 2008 this kind of specs simply smoke!

Why do I need such power on a laptop you may wonder... My answer: As long as I can afford it, why not? Why am I an Apple geek after all? Search me. I quit smoking a few years back, so I reckon my new addiction qualifies as a better substitute, ain't it?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Of sleeping pills in China

Judging from this picture, shot by Reuters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 10, 2008, during the third plenary session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, one can speculate that it wouldn't be a bad idea to burn CDs with the Chinese leaders' super dull speeches and then sell them as a substitute to sleeping pills. Am I right or am I right? An added bonus... you can't get addicted to listening to these CDs as you normally risk by chronically swallowing sleeping pills, can you?

I love them Chinese and other Orientals about their ability to fall asleep so easy, at any moment of the day. First time I came across the phenomenon I thought it was the jet-lag. Until I found that they also keep doing it within their very own timezone as well. Aren't they cute?

Sleep on morons! Your leaders will take care of you regardless.

If you found a ship up on a ...mountain,

...sure it's a... vagina who parked it there! A known Greek proverb, that is. Being said about women being capable of impossible and irrational things. This time though you can't possibly blame a woman for bringing the Dutch cargo Artemis (Ancient Greek Goddess of hunting) ashore at les Sables d'Olonne in Britanny, can you?

I wonder though. Americans call their storms and hurricanes with (mostly) female names, like Katrina, for instance. In vain I tried to find out whether this European perfect storm had a name too. I couldn't find one. I am sure though, if they called it anything, it must have been a female name as well. To prove the Greeks right. About parking of ships up on a mountain...

Visit here for more spectacular shots of various sites in Europe during this recent storm.


Monday, March 10, 2008

It's the economy stupid...

Recently emerging as stand-alone devices with WLAN connectivity, Internet Radios make it possible to listen to the entire globe provided you can understand the local language of the broadcasting stations. Anyways... I was listening to the KIKK-CNN station from Houston, Texas this afternoon and burst to LMAO when the speaker told a news story about BMW closing down some of its ops in Germany (and subsequently cutting dozens of German jobs) to transfer the equivalent production facility (and create new jobs) to the US. The greenback is at its lowest rate vis-a-vis the Euro and Yen in our living memory and if you add to this the appallingly business-unfriendly social regimes applicable in most of the 'Socialist' governed Europe, it's no wonder that European companies with global reach are starting a new wave of outsourcing to the... US (yep, you heard right!). That's exactly what the broadcaster said holding her laughs. "The Europeans are outsourcing to the US', she said... "We just became... the new India".

Come to think of it, I wonder why it hasn't happened earlier. Outsourcing to China and India will inevitably transfer our western high-tech know-how to the Far East... at the same time, as the Chinese and Indians improve their own living conditions and standards, they become increasingly consumers of their own products they used to export to the countries that outsourced their ops there in the first place. Here's the mess. In the last few decades the geniuses of western capitalism killed systematically local manufacturing capacity and transferred it instead to the Far East. Little by little the Far East will end-up consuming many of the products manufactured locally and increasing local demand will drive prices higher. Inflation in China and India will inevitably push payrolls higher to avoid social unrest. Higher local payroll will hurt the margin advantage Westerners gained by outsourcing there in the first place. And we, in the West, will increasingly find ourselves with empty supermarkets and malls, double digit inflation and no capacity to produce what we need to consume. Our social security systems will collapse and pensions will become impossible to pay; we shall all have to become the new "third world" to which the nouveaux rich and famous from the East will "use" to outsource some of their own production.

Makes you think...

What a dilemma to deal with...

We learn (from financial analysts watching Apple quite closely) that for every unlocked iPhone sold and used with a different operator than ATT and the three Europeans selected for France, Germany and the UK, Apple potentially loses as much as 400-500 bucks a piece (not sure whether this is over the lifetime of the phone or annual miss, I reckon over the lifetime). Whatever. It's a good bunch of greenbacks. With about a million iPhones unlocked, do the math.

Here's the thing. If Apple decides to stop this and forces buyers to activate their phones at the POS they'll lose one in four buyers, or even more, meaning they may miss their 2008 year end 10 million unit target. And this is the last thing they wanna do.

On the other hand, if they continue their current practices they are going to lose much more in lost recurring revenue from unlocked phones. What to do then?

One thing I know for a fact, this whole thing of linking an iPhone exclusively to an operator is a pile of cowshit. They'd be much better off doing what the other big suppliers (Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, etc) do for years now. Sell plain unlocked phones. But again... these Cupertino folks are those who invented "think different". It ain't different if you sell you cellphones just like Nokia, right?

Think about an alternative: Why focus on a target of 10M units and take ages to launch to mega markets like China, EU and India? Combined population of all three is shy of 3 Billion people. Maybe good for a market of more than 500,000 phones a year. Throw the right iPhone package to these markets and selling another 10 million units in the first year must be a slam-dunk.

I reckon the current Apple iPhone strategy smells very much like stubbornness El Jobso style. Like wanting to cure his pancreatic cancer with a simple diet. Well, nobody's perfect. Even his Jobness.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Guy Kawasaki vs. Monkey Boy

Quite an interesting interview from Microsoft's Vegas Mix 08 trade show. Kawasaki, an Apple evangelist and pioneer, was asked to interview Steve Ballmer, who, incidentally, makes quite a good impression of himself in this interview. To mere mortals like the rest of us, it's quite interesting to see what goes on (or not) in the head of a Microsoft CEO during his day-to-day life. The clip is quite long (about an hour) but worth watching, even by Mac addicts and converts like myself. BTW, if you wanna drop monkey boy a line here's his email : (says he, no filters and no PAs to stop you from sending him your ideas).

Simply the greatest entrepreneur of all time.

If you want to hear the Greatest talk about his work, go read this interview of his to Fortune Magazine. Worth the travel (surf I meant)...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Did Keef really need the dough?

Other than posing in a great picture by Annie Leibovitz (click for better res) I can't really imagine Keith Richards being in need for the Louis Vuitton money.

Mikhael Gorbachev did the same for LV but, as far as we know, he at least does need the money. What a shame. He's been the brain behind the change that brought down communism for good, and he needs to resort to acts like these, while many others, preferably ex-KGB agents with an eye for capitalist style fraud, accommodate themselves with juicy fortunes in the billions.

C'est la vie, as Italians say...

What biz is all about...

Take a look at this nerd face (Zuckerberg, founder and chief of Facebook) and tell me how he managed to convince one of Google's top executives, Miss Sheryl Sandberg, to come and work for him. Then read FSJ's comments on the news.

Here's an excerpt. I believe he's darn right about the raison d'ĂȘtre of any of these social networking ventures for kids and nerdy adults...

'You have to remember what Facebook's core business is about. It's not about helping people stay in touch with friends or express themselves. It's not about changing the world or creating an ecosystem for small apps makers. It's not even about selling ads. Facebook is a vehicle through which a bunch of investors in the Valley hope to turn a small pile of money into a much bigger pile of money by selling shares in the public markets. That is Facebook's core business. That is its raison d'etre as they say in Latin. This is a company created by, for and about venture capitalists. It's not a company so much as it's a narrative. A fable. A fairy tale. Zuckerberg himself is incidental except that it makes the story a little better to have a boyish little Harvard dropout (cough Gates cough) in flip-flops and fleece jacket as CEO.

Worse yet, right now Facebook is a friggin Ponzi scheme, with Facebook's venture-funded apps partners making money primarily by selling ads to Facebook's other venture-funded apps partners. Infinite loop? Um yeah. Moreover, Facebook itself is being propped up and kept alive by the Borg, simply so it can serve as a thorn in Google's side. And frankly the Borg will be happy to keep this thing alive and to help Z-Boy and his backers make obscene billions as long as Facebook saps energy from Google and distracts them and draws away their talent. Z-Boy, clever fellow that he is, is happy to serve as the Borg's proxy in its war against Google, so long as he's richly compensated, which he will be. He spotted a war between giants and cleverly turned that to his own advantage. Well played, kid'

Honestly, this is one of Fake Steve's best stories. Ever.

PS. The Borg, for those of you who feel lost, is Microsoft's Gates, whereas the Z-Boy is Zuckerberg himself.

Yet another ode to El Jobso...

Interesting Fortune Magazine story about his Jobness. Here's an excerpt:

'Jobs' personal abuses are also legend: He parks his Mercedes in handicapped spaces, periodically reduces subordinates to tears, and fires employees in angry tantrums. Yet many of his top deputies at Apple have worked with him for years, and even some of those who have departed say that although it's often brutal and Jobs hogs the credit, they've never done better work.

How Jobs pulls all this off - how this bundle of conflicting behaviors can coexist, to spectacular effect, in a single human being - remains a puzzle, even though more than a dozen books have been written about him. Jobs is notoriously secretive and controlling when it comes to his relationship with the press, and he tries to stifle stories that haven't received his blessing with threats and cajolery.

This story is one of them. While Jobs agreed to be interviewed by my colleague Betsy Morris on the subject of Apple's selection as America's Most Admired Company (see What Makes Apple Golden), he refused to comment for this story, which had been in the works for months. Dozens of people who work or have worked with Jobs did agree to extensive interviews, most insisting on not being named (even if praising him) for fear of incurring his anger.

History, of course, is littered with tales of combustible geniuses. What's astounding is how well Jobs has performed atop a large public company - by its nature a collaborative enterprise. Pondering this issue, Stanford management science professor Robert Sutton discussed Jobs in his bestselling 2007 book, "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't." "As soon as people heard I was writing a book on assholes, they would come up to me and start telling a Steve Jobs story," says Sutton. "The degree to which people in Silicon Valley are afraid of Jobs is unbelievable. He made people feel terrible; he made people cry. But he was almost always right, and even when he was wrong, it was so creative it was still amazing." Says Palo Alto venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gasse, a former Apple executive who once worked with Jobs: "Democracies don't make great products. You need a competent tyrant."

The story was published in parallel with the one praising Apple as the number one most admired company for 2008 in the world. If you want the entire list go here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Carnival in Hasselt

In three weeks we'll celebrate Easter in the Catholic Christian world and in Hasselt, provincial capital of one of the nine Belgian provinces, Limburg, they have been celebrating over this last weekend the 2008 Carnival! Say what? Well yes... we were equally shocked at the news. As I was having a coffee and relaxing at the King George pub, at the corner of the Grote Markt, a local chap, sitting next to me and watching me pulling out my photographic and video gear started a smalltalk with me. 'Yes', he admitted in his local accent, sipping his kriek (cherry) beer, ''s kinda late for carnival... but that's the way we do it for centuries.'

'It's normal' said my youngest son a little later. 'In Limburg everything is slower than in any other place', he said, bursting in laughs about the locals enjoying a reputation of not being as smart as in the rest of Flanders. Known old story: every country has a part of its population being laughed at as being double-digit IQ's.

It's not fair though... other than their singing accent that sounds quite funny, Limburgers are extremely amicable people and equally smart with the rest of us, if not smarter.

The dude on the picture above was huge and played the trumpet... he looked like a zombie risen from his grave where he was laid with his red Baron uniform and all, after he crashed his plane in the Great War. If you are curious to see more of my shots from the carnival, link here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is Apple as smart as it looks?

Well, I couldn't say. Their approach (stubbornness I should say) to delay the introduction in every country of the EU, preferably unlocked, of their marvelous iPhone is beyond comprehension. It's right now that the greenback hits all-time lows and has got some more to go southwards vis-a-vis the Euro as 2008 advances. Apple needs to reach the sale of 10 million iPhone units by year end 2008 and... they claim they are on track. But it wouldn't hurt them at all if they secured even more that target with some extra units released in miserable countries like the Benelux, South Europe, Switzerland, etc... The bonus they get by the dollar further deteriorating will make up for most of the lost profit from unlocking the phone (meaning they won't get any added revenue from operators with exclusive rights). Any iPhone launched in Europe will bring them the best part of 750 bucks per unit whereas their equivalent cost remains virtually the same per unit.

Why they don't just do this and keep ignoring the largest part of a 500 million consumer market is a HUGE mystery to many of us...

As of this writing there is nobody with a clue about if or when there will be any iPhone launch in any of the remaining 24 countries of the EU. Should someone teach Messrs Jobs and Cook some geography about our markets? Who knows... they might be jealous of Gates and his Zune, only released in the US of A.