Saturday, August 30, 2008

New York, New York

Finally! We arrived at the Big Apple. Drive from JFK to the Benjamin in record time. Only happens at 4 am the cab driver said!. Labor day around the corner and everyone's rushing out of the City. And we have been rushing in. Beautiful day, in the upper 20ies (Celsius) clear skies. Gorgeous! Huge room (a suite really) at the Benjamin, opposite the Waldorf. Lexington, Park, Madison and there we are, at the 5th. Went for a snack at the Rockefeller Center. Big burgers and breathtaking blondes all over. Wish I was 30 yrs younger.

Walked to the Temple! The Apple Store at the 5th Avn. Three words: A-MAZ-ING! Gotta see it to believe. Never seen such a crowd in a shop except during Sales. Nevertheless, enough geniuses and equipment around to satisfy every curious customer and prospect. Tried a pair of Sony noice cancelling and another one from Bose. Gotta hear it to believe it. Close your eyes and it's like all the crowds suddenly disappeared and you are on your own on your sofa, scotch on one hand and a book on another, enjoying your favorite composer... Megacool!

Drug store, some medicine, water, doritos, micro-wave Pop-Corn, some bananas from a street fruit salesman and back to Benjamin for an early turn-in. 

Morning day after... Blogging for friends and enemies...

Keep checking our iWeb site for beautiful shots...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bloomberg rushes El Jobso's obit...

... Just in case the competition (NYT, WSJ, Forbes) gets ahead of them with stop-the-press breaking news like this, that is. Read this report... It's a screamer! What people won't do for money...

LinkedIn rules!

Have you guys been overwhelmed recently by 'connecting' requests coming out of LinkedIn? Heartbreaking! I mean it! Some connections that recently reached me appear as coming from another life in a Parallel World! Dirk Jan Sjobbema! Thomas Steuer! Georges Verheijen! Mike Mills! OMG! Still alive and well? How's life treating you guys? David Sprott! CEO of CBDI Forum! Lawrence Wilkes! My dear Lawrence! Born actually the same day in the same year as I. Great year by the way! Year in which that Jozef Stalin sonovabitch was burried! Makes me feel 50 years younger already!

Who knows where the time goes? Maybe I sound like Nina Simone but I really really mean it! You think life is short and time flies but you look back and there is an entire world that existed out there and a myriad events that took place and simply faded, until something like Web 2.0 LinkedIn shows up and lights a bonfire right into a man's memory cells.

LinkedIn is not meant of course to be serving the emotional side of things. It's a monetized Web enterprise that adds value to business networking by maintaining a database of various degrees of career connectivity among its members (remember 'the 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon'?). A great idea, especially because many of the companies it still tracks are long gone (sold, diluted, failed) but memories among their ex-employees stay alive. Memories of better days! We spend so much time together under the roof of 'corporate business' that we forget there's more to life indeed. Anyways... but, that's another story.

Well, thx much LinkedIn! You're da man!

Politics Made in Belgium

Pinch me! A thirty one year old social assistant who made a blitz career via the almighty Belgian unions and selected by a bunch of cowardly politicians of the ruling Christian Democrats, she was given the federal Ministry of Civil Service and Public Enterprises to run. Next thing we know, as the world's leading expert in 'running commercial business' (with her Union's background in bankrupt National Airlines SABENA she sure 'knows' a wholelotta), she doesn't 'like' Belgacom's top man Bellens salary, and challenges him with a 30% pay cut ultimatum! Like declaring the war to a hostile nation! Gimme a break! The man keeps a super business running with profits (unique in Belgian state owned businesses) and makes a good dough, but nevertheless his pay eclipsed by equivalent jobs elsewhere outside Belgium. But his comp causes shivering and a stroke to those incompetent civil servants 'running' the whole country like sh*t, not even being able to hold their act together 15 months after the last National Polls. And cute little Sound of Music nun Inge is gonna tell us now how to run big business. What can I say? Damn those politicians who still believe in state ownership of commercial business?! Who wants them to? Some can't even tie their own shoelaces together or keep themselves away from booze and still have the nerve to tell the rest of us how to lead our lives and manage our businesses! Can you find a better example of public arrogance? Open the dictionary on the term and you got the pictures of them all members of our current Belgian cabinet posing next to each other and thinking, 'we are all f*cked up!'

At least little Inge is honest with us. See how she gives us the middle finger in the picture above? Really!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Barack picks Biden

By now the entire planet knows the news but I still find worthwhile to just mention the style of da man to make his VP choice known thru SMSs and Twitter. How cool is this?! Of course it's someone from his staff and not him personally who posts his Tweets, but who cares? You get the feeling that the dude is just one of us. Wish them both the best of success!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A bicycle...

I got myself a bicycle. Sounds like Freddy Mercury, doesn't it? I could hardly believe it myself but it's true. Last bicycle I ever had was paid by my dad 45 years ago. It was a fine vehicle, made in France by Peugeot... yes sir! Red and silver gray.

This time over, (check more shots by clicking the picture shown) the technology involved is far above what I've ever been used before. Special brakes, 9 speed mechanism, saddle and steering adjustments, aluminum body, air suspension, and beautiful ride feeling. My kids and spouse are already envying me. I am not sure I'll be able to use it heavily though but I don't mind staring at it as well. A fine piece of modern technology and result of years long of specialized research. Bicycles came a long way, especially in this country where they seem to be a national passtime.

However, you got to know things about getting a good deal when buying a new bike. I don't have a clue. Thanks to Bavo though, a family friend, who's the world's leading expert on all things bicycles, I got me the deal of my life! Well done B, you're da man!

Don't expect me to turn into Eddy Merckx Jr any time soon though. I'll be glad to lose some extra weight by riding it around during sunshine weekends (where are these?). Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This must be the screamer of the day!

I am following Tony, the CEO on Twitter. A couple of days ago he twitted that he was on his way to Beijing for business meetings with UPS (soit disant); in the meantime, he found the time to window-shop the Olympics... why not? He's been twitting a myriad experiences of his but, the best one by far is this one here:

zappos Urinals @ Olympics all have piece of duct tape on top, except for one someone removed. Hidden underneath: "American Standard" (manufacturer) about 6 hours ago from txt

Do you get it? I'm sure you do. Good ol' Chinese (who knows who's responsible for that... maybe the 'party' and Mao's spirit) feel embarrassed to tell the world that they had to buy urinals from American Standard, so they covered its logo with duct tape instead!

What can I say! Get a life for cryin' out loud!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

PCs for homeless vagabonds

Made in Greece by Arkas... Who else? Greek humor take 4.

Thumb wrestling Olympics

Check this out... There are still a few companies out there that make loads of money and still have employees who enjoy their jobs and free time there.! In the meantime, their big boss, Zappos CEO, posted a twit saying he's on his way to Beijing for talks with... UPS (of all people... had he mentioned Hu Jintao, I might have believed him) !

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Greek humor take 3

Click for sharper view...


First time I heard about 'technicals' was back in 1997. I even went out to buy a book about the Elliott wave, which I quit reading after a few pages... I was pretty busy then, you see, on day to day tasks, and thought it'd be a waste of time studying that stuff any further.

A few days ago, during a routine surf, I accidentally fell upon a guide on technicals (like for 'dummies' sort of thing), at Investopedia, and went back to give it another try and understand few basics, second time for good. Don't know for sure but it seems to be working better this time. The guide is simple and most things seem to make sense. On the other hand, I am one of those weirdos who actually enjoys math and stats and charting like others enjoy... baseball! This helps too.

For those of you who don't have a clue what I am talking about, don't worry... life can still be beautiful without technicals. In a nutshell, technicals is a method of evaluating securities by analyzing the statistics generated by market activity, such as past prices and volume. Technical analysts do not attempt to measure a security's intrinsic value, but instead use charts and other tools to identify patterns that can suggest future activity!

So, it's about guessing future trends and price behavior of a given security based on calculated values of all sorts of indicators, triggers, oscillators, and accompanying charts (click the picture to get a feel).

Technical Analysis is based on three interesting principles:

1. The market discounts everything.
2. Price moves in trends.
3. History tends to repeat itself.

Look at the AAPL technicals charts above as an example... click on for sharper view. These charts were generated yesterday by, after the market closure. Check-out the two indices, RSI and CCI. These are numbers that point to 'oversold', and 'overbought' states of a given security. The previous day, Thursday 14th, both indices were pointing to an 'overbought' state for AAPL that for all 'technicals' aficionados should trigger a 'sell' signal. A slight breakout out of the Bollinger Bands (check the charts again) and some resistance tested during the last few days in the region of 180 dollars were more than enough to suggest that AAPL should be on its way down, at least in the short term. The market was up (both Dow and Nas) for most of the day. Oil losing points for some time now and the dollar gaining grounds vis-à-vis the Euro to levels unseen for a long time. Eventually, the Nas finished the day almost flat and the Dow was up a modest 0.38%... And... how about AAPL? Well, it dropped 2%. On a regular day, for top rated stocks like AAPL, a 2% drop in price is huge! How was this justified?

I don't know... and having studied that stuff for only a few days, I can't possibly pretend I understand even half the story. Seems plausible though that some heavy duty traders based on chart signals similar to the ones I discussed above started to short the stock. If that is true then it feels like we should all go study the technicals. Especially those of us who like to invest and collect profits short term may discover that learning to read the charts is most likely worth the effort.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I often wondered whether there is a correlation between the number of medals (preferably gold) a NOC delegation wins during the Olympics and 'something' else about the country behind the NOC. Nevertheless, as in the FIFA World Cup, it appears that the higher the country rank in the Olympics, measured by golden medals in the first place, the more intense the sentiment of national pride of the country's citizens.

The Chinese, ever since they obtained the organization rights for the 29th Olympiad, made a real point about this becoming the greatest games ever and them winning first rank measured by any measures. So far they are doing fine. For a whole week after the opening ceremony they have been teaching us lessons in perfection and how to achieve it. And all this with a smile! Way to go kiddos! I already told my own kids to start learning some basics in Mandarin Chinese for they are probably gonna need it real soon. My generation didn't but they'll probably do and their own kids will surely do, without the shadow of a doubt!

Let's see how we stand on medal rankings though. Click the capture above, taken from the official Beijing 2008 medals stand page. China on top for both gold and medal totals. Second place for the US, third for Germany. And it is true that in the top ten list you find 6 of the G7 (Bomb Canada!* always good for nothin') - I am still looking at correlations... would money have something to do with it?

I wouldn't be a cranky teaser though if I hadn't thrown this next thing into the argument, just for kicks. Count for instance the golden medals of the EU members in the top 10. Result 17. Ranking EU nr 2, right behind China! Count their medal totals as well. Result 47! Say what? Yep! 47. Germany:12, Italy:13, France:15, and shameful UK:7. Which sets Europe on top of the Chinese in total medal rankings. Waaay above the US. And I left countries like Spain and the Netherlands out of it, for the time being...

There's nothing new to this. It used to be during Olympic Games before East and West Germany re-unified, that both Germanies together outranked everybody else. They are not doing as well nowadays but just for the sake of argument. Anyways, the EU with 27 member states, almost half a billion citizens and 23 official languages (blimey) are going to win these Olympics too. Mark my words. Wait for next week the athletics to kick-in.

So, maybe one day, in quite a few more Olympiads to go, the Chinese are going to overtake the EU in total rankings. Not yet though... Sorry! As for my US pals... well, you always seem to come up with these multiple medal winning champs, like Spitz, Lewis and now Phelps. Take these folks out of the equation and the picture gets pretty ugly. To your credit though, you are far less densely populated than us in Europe (only got 60% of our population) and u'r going thru a serious recession right now (although many of you won't admit it). I'm still looking for my correlations, ain't I?

* I stole that from South Park.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Greek humor take 2

Dictatorial?!? Moi?!

What is this thing with the App Store? Now you see an app now you don't. They keep pulling down apps from their store at will. Of course they may have their own reasons for that but, how can you blame ziPhone and the Dev team for jailbreaking the iPnone/Pod OS and allowing third party apps to install without Apple's or anybody else's consent? Even if you are called Apple you have no right to decide what we are putting on things we paid money for. Right? Imagine Apple told us what software we can use on our Macbooks. No Way! Are they nuts or somethin? It's already too much they want us to only buy cellphone subscriptions from their preferred operators, innit? Or, are they doing this because they want to 'protect us' from ourselves? Kinda reminds me my days living in Greece under the colonels in late sixties. Bleeding Nazi lovers!

BTW, I am still standing by my positive evaluation of the paradigm around the App Store in the blogpost hereunder, no reason why not! That doesn't give them the right to grow Adolf mustaches under their nose though!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Apple Apps

It used to be that Apple was a lot about style and innovation. They were the first with icons and mice (although they stole those from PARC), first with the smaller rigid floppy disks, first with Firewire, and more of that... Although they are still keen on style, they seem to have found a different way to become successful and make mega bucks for us lucky shareholders. They actually seem to be reinventing things that existed for long but never managed to go mainstream. And then Apple shows up to reinvent the wheel. In doing that though, they make sure everybody thinks that never a living soul had thought of that before ( they even tried this with Podcasting but that try was lousy and brutal, and they then stopped arguing about it). And in that process, they end-up creating new markets and gottahavit fashionable trends and they finally prove that some things that failed to monetize in the past actually turn out to be God blessed Sacred Cash-Cows. Take iTunes as one sound example of this. This thing (music downloads) was going on for ages before they came into play. They changed the goalposts though (availability, variety and price) and made it simple enough for a two year old to download some real cool tunes and sing along... A whole new world emerged and billions of songs sold worldwide. They then started doing the same with videos and TV shows. I remember the early whining.... yeah... yeah... the quality is not yet Hi-Def, bla-bla-bla... So what? How many seen full HD shows on this planet yet? A micro percent point? C'm on, I am used to watch the video Cranky Geeks podcast (yep, today is this week's episode just out) on my 40 inch Full HD Bravia and I say, ok, it ain't a Hi-def show alright but it's gorgeous to watch... the characters look sharper than normal TV (the one I've been watching for 30 years) so where's the problem?

Anyways, they went on to reinvent the mobile phone next. And we all know what happened. Front page news even in Mongolia, Gana and Nicaragua (and ...Belgium for that matter). What can I say? They even seem to reinvent their own products. All the stuff one can now do (if lucky) with I been doing long ago and some more with their very own dot mac. When I first saw the briefing on WWDC last June I kept thinking, what's wrong with me? Why don't I see the delta? Ok, maybe 'push' is a bonus, but is this worth all the fuss? Apparently El Jobso thinks it is. And mark my words, he' ll prove right again.

And finally the App store. I have had PDAs and pocket calculators all my life. More than you can imagine. Always been loyal to TI, from deep in the early seventies. However, I never spent more than, say, a few days on each one of them and then left them to rotten. Waste of money. I can't get my hands off my iPod Touch ever since 2.0 came out though... Three words: A-MA-ZING! Too much to explain. Start with their delivery model. From very cheap to free pricing for all sorts of things that we have been using before, but scattered all over made by companies that come and go like comets. At least now, you know where to look for, how to get the goodies, pay a few pennies and you're good to go! As I said, A-MA-ZING! The limits are a developer's imagination. It is possible for a young kid with some programming skills and a great idea to start making dough and a living on what he/she earns by selling a little trivial app, like measurement conversions, to say something. I'll give you an example. The most frustrating experience when you read recipes in cook books are the different obnoxious measurement units they typically use, depending where the books come from, like US, UK, Europe, Greece, Japan. We use a metric system here but even in that, how do you mean using cups and spoons? Give us a break! Well, there's a little genius iPhone app that translates and converts all that for you. Even sizes for clothes, there in your bleedin' iPhone. Calling people with the phone only represents 1% of the stuff you do with these gadgets nowadays. Phenomenal! Simple apps but once you get used to them, you don't let go. You just feel bare naked without your iPod/Phone...

And the story continues... To the developers this is 'manna' from heaven. Get paid directly, post updates real quick, 80% of code is reuse-based on SDK libraries, get all the help they need from Apple and user forums and if lucky, even get some VC funding. Us users, we scan and read about them apps in one single place, compare products among each-other and download 'em over and again to our heart's desire. I found myself spending more than 30 bucks daily for the last so many days (ssssh, my bride might listen). Talking about delivery models! Wow! His Jobness will re-write the Bible once more. El Jobso! A dropout who took calligraphy classes without even caring for exams and never bothered about 'what they (don't) teach you at Harvard'.

Wow, again!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

El Jobso admits mistakes.

The spies of Ars Technica intercepted an internal memo by his Jobness admitting that the massive launch of, the App Store and the 3G iPhone, all at the same time, was too good to be true; more testing and a more gradual roll-out would have been much more appropriate. As the old Greek philosophers would have put it: Γειράσκω αεί διδασκόμενος (I'm still learning while I am aging).

There may have indeed occurred several macho acts by those in his senior staff who were responsible for the Big Bang launches, trying to impress Jobs himself and prove to the rest of us that Apple is even more than we think it is. El Jobso's job was to keep an eye on all responsible but this time he may have been less despotic than usual (less of an a-hole) and more empowering to them by delegating more authority that they could handle... Problem is, where despotic regimes are the rule, it's very unlikely to be able to find many who have testicles and skills to make the right decisions. On the other side, despotism can also help achieve short term goals like no other. Look at the China Olympics as an example. I believe His Jobness ended-up kinda thinkin': Over my dead body next time over, moron first-graders! It's a bleedin' kindergarden I'm runnin' for cryin' out loud!

He couldn't be more right...