Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some good news, for a change

From this week's Nature Magazine, in its brief news.

'Sea-ice cover in the Arctic (pictured) has reached its annual low — and not broken last year's record of the smallest ice extent since satellite records began, says the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Ice cover began to grow again from 10 to 14 September after bottoming out at 4.52 million square kilometres, the centre says. That's 9.4% more ice than last summer's minimum. Contributing factors include the fact that there were fewer warm days in the Arctic region this year than last, and also that winds blew in different directions instead of packing the ice together into a small area.

The International Arctic Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska, also recorded a minimum last week: 4.71 million square kilometres on 9 September.'

Funny how this kind of positive news never seems to find its way to the top of news reporters' piles of horseshit stories, eh?

Lawyers, Politicians and News Reporters

There 's a joke in the US, like: What do you call 100 lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean? Answer: A good start!

I thought of that this morning (but then with lawyers replaced by politicians and news reporters) when I saw the front page of "DeMorgen" newspaper, leftist minded, kinda the 'sophisticated' type with shedloads of 'cultural' reporting. The kind of paper that has got no issue putting that moron Michael Moore on the front page every single morning...

You might ask, why the heck do you keep buying that tabloid then? Well, I don't like it, but it came home via the siblings and the wife loves it for telling the 'truth'...dream on baby! I don't read the papers anyway as I hate the journalistic race to a level that hurts. In Switzerland, if you need to to show contempt about someone for any reason, that's what you call him: a freakin' journalist!

Back to the front page (see the shot). All devoted to yesterday's cataclysmic events. Spread the panic, baby! Last time they did that was when the late king died... or Iraq was invaded, or 911. Spread the panic among the simple minds. Make them buy more disaster papers. Bad news sells! Worst news sells even better! I haven't read details, as I was too busy throwing up, but the spouse did, and said: S... (our cousin) will take all her money out of the bank... and you hear (the paper says) about scores of old people waiting in queue to pick-up their savings. Spread the panic baby, there's not been enough suicide bombings today and the Bourses are the best target to deal with. Especially the Banks. Shoot the bastards because they are lazy and rich. Every single one of us is born to envy and hate the rich. Unless he/she happens to be one.

Anyways, the storm will pass by, the rich of this world with tons of liquidity will have to put their wealth somewhere and, as the Treasures of Ali Baba are just fairy tales, most of the richest will have to go back to a rational place to safekeep their wealth instead of looking for a secret cave that opens its gates at the sound of Sesame or Abracadabra! And the markets will go up eventually. And the 'rich' (read 'smart') will get richer... Duh?!

Trust me, the times are wonderful for those with liquid cash at hand. The morons among the commoners will take it away and let it rotten in lofts or under mattresses (best times for occasional burglers too, BTW). The clever ones will put it to work. Seen Mr. B. buying-in into the guts of Goldman Sachs last week? Already got himself a bonus of $432M in preferred stock dividends and warrants. No wonder he's the richest alive on the planet.

Buying stock or futures is the best one can think of these days. You may still think the bottom is deeper and wanna wait, but what the heck. We are closer to the bottom than ever before. You can't have it all, can you? Even more, buy big Banks if you got any testicles left. Citigroup and UBS are the best candidates! UBS, you said? You must be out of your freaking mind! Well, yes! UBS is the safest of them all. It's so big that if it falls, nothing will matter anyway. But it won't fall and we'll be back here in a few months time to laugh about... 'member? I told yah!

A friend called me yesterday in panic. 'What should I do', she said! 'My husband wants to take all his money from the bank as he's afraid they'll go bankrupt'. 'Make sure he buys one big mattress', I said! What else to say? I get it that people who have no knowledge of economy panic. The oldest have even been thru the war and were traumatized for life. They remember what it was. But, us, Baby Boomers and later? Gimmee a break! Worst of all, my experience shows that those panicking most are those with major degrees in Finance, for crying out loud!

It's a mad world... and politicians and reporters, mainly thinking about their personal gain, make it sound even more crazy. Stay out of their range folks. Vote the former down and stop buying the latter's papers today! ... and go buy some technology stock. With today's prices it's a hot bargain.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I will end up liking the poor bastard. George W, I mean. I definitely have some empathy and sympathy watching him struggle under the burden of his 'checks and balances' country, waiting for those morons in the Congress (one of the 3 'checks') to finally 'get it'. I am watching CNBC here in Belgium at 6:00 pm on this Monday afternoon and from time to time they show one or another dinosaur Congressman pitching his opinion on the matter (like the saying goes: opinions are like a-holes; everybody's got one!).

Problem is that average US citizens, especially those who vote Republican, seem to oppose the bailout for all sorts of reasons of which the most important is this: born and raised misinformed, naively libertarian, inadequately educated, manipulated by the media, and kindergarten immature to even have an opinion on the bailout. In the land of democracy and freedom the average Joe is mad that 'his' tax money is about to be pumped into the pockets of the Wall Street wealthy. Get a life!

One thing is sure, there are a number of sly traders who are in the process of earning billions of dollars in short-selling strategies. Let me give you an example of how freaky this market is today. AAPL was trading 23 bucks lower than last Friday. Give me a break. Here's the best managed company in the world with the ultimate fundamentals any company can only wish for. Piles of cash, top branding, massive growth, iPods that make grandmas get horny, personal computers that two-year olds can operate (and doing this with one arm tied behind their back), and more of that... Two monkey analysts came out of the woodwork and downgraded the stock based on the most bullshit rationale that only half-brains can come up with. Nevertheless, the hit was devastating and 'panic' was king. I bought some Jan 09 puts less than two weeks ago at 110 strike for 5.25 bucks a share and it was trading at 17-18 dollars earlier today! Golly!

Right now my predictions about the level of maturity of US Congressmen and their sense of reality was just proven right. Republicans voted down the bailout 2 to 1 against their own administration. Even Democrats voted down in great numbers. I just can't get it. Thank God I am living in Europe. The Fortis case has proven today that one little country like Belgium together with its two neighbors solved over a weekend a case that had not a snowball's chance in hell to be solved by any US congressman ever born. And I thought that it was us who were the monkeys, so called old-fashioned stiff-upper lip Europeans!

On a final note... folks in US, why do you put all these women in high government places? Seen that stupid cow, speaker of the House? And how about all the Democrats who voted against? Ok, Republicans have an ideology problem. But... Democrats? Darn freaktards!!! Gosh, I like Barack Obama more than the other candidate, but, if this bunch of Democrats is about to govern the country... well I don't know... maybe George W. will not go down as the worse President in History... Maybe his Congress will.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Words of Wisdom

I picked this up from a friend's newsletter. Worth knowing, he's serving as we speak the national interests of this country out of our Embassy in Kabul. Yep, you got it... that's in Afghanistan.

Watch your thoughts, because thoughts become words.
Watch your words, because words become actions.
Watch your actions, because actions become habits.
Watch your habits, because habits become character.
Watch your character, because character becomes destiny.

Thx much Jean-Louis for this wonderful injection of common wisdom...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Get those MF's

Read this article. If it's true that some greedy SoBs took advantage of the turmoil to profit like that, I hope they get them quick and fry the bastards! Guantanamo should be pussy stuff compared.

Here's a teaser:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An unusual surge in Goldman Sachs' share price in the last 10 minutes of trading on Tuesday raised eyebrows on Wall Street, as it came two hours before news of Warren Buffett's big investment in the bank.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) shares rose more than $5 heading into the close of trading even as the rest of the market tumbled, leaving traders suspicious that inside information was used to make a profit...

See more...

Friday, September 19, 2008


Many of the world's richest lost some pretty good dough this last five days. Based on the universal law of conservation of wealth though, when one gets poorer, another gets richer. There was this dude, ex-CEO of AIG, Greenberg's the name, who last Sunday was still worth on paper 1 point somethin' Billion dollars. Then, Monday came, followed by Wednesday; he saw his entire billion and change evaporate from his personal portfolio. Just like this... he's been probably losing millions by the sec. I saw the poor bastard on a CNBC interview and I must admit, he seemed pretty cool. It's only money, you know, like my good ol' friend John Y. used to say. I guess, for the few years he's left to live (he looked pretty senior) Greenberg's several millions leftovers can still save him from begging on a sideway in uptown Manhattan. How sorry I feel for this dude! Nooot?

Anyways, the point is this. As long as average Joe's were losing their houses to foreclosures when they failed to meet their monthly installments, we saw the US Administration watch from the sidelines. From time to time, George W, an Economy genius, would show up to 'calm' the public sentiment (election year that is) by stating that the Administration was 'on top' of things and despite the 'mild crisis', the American Economy's fundamentals were sound and Strong! How convincing! Until this last 'Bloody Monday'. The New Economy's hound dogs (aka hedge fund managers) went after some big names in the Financial Markets, the likes of Goldman and Morgan Stanley, whereas Lehman Bros kicked the bucket and saw its share drop to mere cents. Internationally, news were talking about potential failure pressures on the likes of UBS, who, poor greedy bastards, already declared write-downs in the range of 42 Billion dollars and were about to add another 5 Billion and change in a month or so. For the first time ever since 80 years ago, the Big Depression, a real risk for a deja-vu has been knocking on our doors. Was it that bad? I mean, Ike and Katrina were just fairy tales. 9/11 was a pussy in comparison.

Let me tell you something. UBS and Credit Suisse put together manage a volume of dollars of the world's wealthiest that is seven times larger than Switzerland's GDP! Yep, you heard well, not Ghana's or Botswana's but of Switzerland's! Yes, Sir! Search the net for that GDP figure and multiply by seven. Sounds like the distance from earth to the Magellan clouds in plain miles! Simply A-stro-no-mi-cal! Do the math! Let a Bank like this go down and it will be felt in the pockets of any given village shopkeeper in the outskirts of Kabul! So, Bloody Monday was a real shake up. Good ol' George started gettin' calls from his Oil friends and Dickie Cheney: Gee, George, do somethin' for f*cksake! All we stole in the last 8 years will end up in the pockets of those motherf*ckers Street boys, freakin' shortsellers! Cut-off their peckers for Chrissake! Heeeeelp! And Georgie woke up to help his friends this time. And most probably his very own money as well. And the impossible happened. Good ol' libertarian Republican ideology went down the toilet within millisecs. Shortsellers were constrained to 'play' with Financials... and Government, like a Good Father, nationalized AIG, the largest Insurance company in this Galaxy, and whoever else was in need of liquid bucks in the Financial Industry. Ronnie Reagan has been turning in his grave at the news...

I personally think that Treasury Secretary Paulson's move to 'save' whatever is still left to save in a googol of Bush disasters, the worst in living memory, was eventually the right thing to do. Maybe it still is too little too late. In any case, there are limits to being a libertarian. If the average person was born good (like Socrates claimed) we wouldn't have this abuse taking place. The markets would be efficient and run by honest people. But people are not honest. They pretend they are but each one of us, admit it or not, are out there to grab whatever lies in our plate. People are intrinsically opportunistic and evil! Church goers are the worst. In a world like this, you need some form of regulation by some form of a central institution. Otherwise, the greed of some will turn upside down the entire planet! Like a world war!

American taxpayers have been complaining though. I heard quite an emotional woman declare on NPR: Profits are 'private' but when losses come among the big boys then suddenly we all become 'social' and the taxpayers need to rush to bail out those who are guilty of this mess in the first place. It's not fair! I agree... with a caveat, if the US Government keeps watching this from the sidelines without some form of intervention then that pretty NPR lady won't have milk, eggs, flour and sugar to buy from her local store in less than a month and will see her own savings evaporate too, from her little small-town bank as all of this mess is so bloody interconnected that even the web would be jealous of its links!

Anyways, we got to get used to it and be vigilant. Unless McCain wins the election. Because, as he claims, he'll bring about the long awaited solution to the problem: He'll fire a few top heads from SEC and will probably send to jail a few others from Wall Street and 'fix' the problem. My Gosh... and we thought George was a cowboy. Good ol' John still lusting for revenge from his North Vietnamese hole forty years later, and as there are no VCs around to suck their blood anymore he'll start kicking whoever shows up in front. Good ol' Yankee macho! C'm on kiddo, save the planet! Go show them bow-tie freaktards!

No me hables...

You... have... no... idea... how many years I've been looking for this song! If you only know a bit of the music but got no idea of title, lyrics, singer, composer, writer, etc... just go figure how to get hold of it. Anyways, enjoy with me... I believe it means 'You don't talk to me...', right? I just love this thing...

If you wanna sing along, here you go...

No me hables, no me hables
No me hables así
No me mientas, que me duele
Que me traten así

Ya no sé, si dejarte de lado
O fingir que me voy por no verte
Si total, ya conoces mis fallos
Y al final me tendrás a tu suerte

No me hables, no me hables
No me hables así
Tú no me mientas, que me duele
Que me intenten mentir

Pues a ver, que tiene de malo
Querer, como estoy queriéndote
Si un día, tú comías en mi mano
Porque hoy, no has de reconocerlo

No me hables, no me hables
No me hables así
Y no me mientas, que me duele
Que me intenten mentir

De cada día nuevo
No te aprendes el consejo
Te molesta pues evitas
El que te hablen de mí

Y es que el llanto de mi cuerpo
No atraviesa tu ventana
La mantienes bien cerrada
Y solamente para mí

No me hables, no me hables, no
Tú no me hables así
Y no me mientas, que me duele
Que me intenten mentir

No me hables, no me hables, no
No me hables así

Ya no sé, si dejarte de lado
O fingir que me voy por no verte
Si total, ya conoces mis fallos
Y al final me tendrás a tu suerte

No me hables, no me hables, no
No me hables así
No me mientas, que me duele
Que me intenten mentir

No me hables, no me hables
No me hables así
No me mientas, que me duele
Que me intenten mentir
No me hables, no me hables

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


My Blurb album 'creation' about my recent Manhattan visit has just been delivered on the post and I am delighted to admit that the quality (compared to commercial publications) has largely overrun my expectations. Click on the frame above to see more shots on Flickr. Binding is solid, the quality of the cover paper stunning, the digital printing on all pages of utmost quality. I am also getting an extra 20% discount on my following order because I've been a loyal customer, they said. If you want to enjoy the same discount let me know. I'll send you the discount code. Results are heads and shoulders above what I am used with Apple printed albums. Really! I mean it! Even with my geeky Apple hat on top of my head!

Incidentally, all those digital photographer prosumers out there, I want to point you to this article by Nathan Myrhvold who used to be the famous Microsoft CTO until 2000. Nathan is a member of EDGE, a sort of best beautiful minds of the planet tank, people who are sitting on the 'edge' of knowledge and leading the rest of us commoners. Nathan seems to be a fervent digital photography geek and knows exactly what he is talking about. With his MSFT billions he can also afford the best gear on the planet (Mark III, Hasselblad and field cameras... a bit like mine so to say...noooot?). To me reading his article was a breath of fresh air, not so much for the new knowledge it supplied but rather for the confirmation and clarifications about prior knowledge with some extensions here and there. A must read for all amateurs with 'pro' aspirations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Helter Skelter!

The more I think about the MacPalin duet that US Republicans put forward to win another four years of Presidency (God forbid) the more I panic. What were they thinking, the so called McCain 'campaign strategists' to pick a 'lipstick' princess who came from the cold (like Santa)? The trick seems to work though as she appears from recent polls to have conquered the hearts and (empty) minds of a serious chunk of the US female electorate (what d' you expect... most of them still watch Jerry Springer's eighteenth season on TV). I hope most of these morons come to their senses next November and realize that the McPalins are in no state to manage this country's Economy, especially now that all time leading icons and cornerstones of the US financial and entrepreneurial system are falling apart.

Just think about a possible risk: McPalin wins and John... passes away in the middle of his term. Reagan was lucky to survive two terms and thank God Almighty he only got senile afterwards; who could say though whether good ol' John doesn't get something fatal in a year or two? He ain't even a middle-age man, right? He's a bloody senior! Most people retire at 60 and walk grandchildren to school... What is this thing to still wanna go on leading the world! Let some young promising folks take control for crying out loud! Eight years ago for John, maybe! But now? Was there really nobody else to pick from? Out of 150 million heads, is this the best you guys can do? Jeez!

Imagine then poor John kicks the bucket. Out of nowhere we get Miss hotlips as Mrs President... Pinch me! I'm having the world's worst nightmare!

Give her a chance, they said when she first appeared to the scene, to prove that even an idiot can make it to the highest position on the planet! What do you guys THINK this thing is? A f*ckin'game of Bingo? Try one or another moron to see who sticks? C'm on folks! Wake up! Didn't you suffer enough disasters in the last 8 yrs? Two wars, skyrocketed deficits, dollar down the drain, the Bubble Burst, a quasi-Depression right now with no end in sight, gaz 4 bucks a gallon, inflation, highest foreclosure record in history, even the bloody weather hates this Administration's guts and sent you Katrina, Ike, and all the rest. WTF?! And you now feel good about that bespectacled butterfly from Ice Age and are about to elect a senior to the White House, again? Taking your chances to recreate Ronnie R. once more? Do you miss him?

I am really off to a tangent today, especially because of a short blogpost by Robert Kennedy Jr I read at Huffington Post a few minutes ago about Miss Saigon , eh... Alaska (okay, moron neocons, I know... the Post is red liberal... spot on... bla... bla... bla...). I am just copying Bob's Jr. writing here:

"Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that "some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies." It might be worth asking Governor Palin for a tally of the other favorites from her reading list."

Do you get it? Miss Wonderful thinks this fascist pig Pegler is a great patriot!

PS. I bold'ed the part that made me throw-up!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Simple comme bonjour!

If you want to have a great future you have to start thinking about it in the present, because when the future's here you won't have the time!

I stole this from ex-Microsoftie CTO Nathan Myrhvold. This is the epitome of a brilliant mind expressing himself in the smartest language on the planet: American English.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Republicans or Democrats? What Europeans want...

'What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.'

(VJK: the bolding is mine...)

Interesting article. In a recent discussion I had with a friend in New York he mentioned that we, Europeans, love Clinton and in general prefer Democrats above Republicans. I know JFK and Jackie were the darlings of many Europeans and that Europeans didn't quite like Nixon, Reagan and the Bush clan whatsoever. I wonder though, is that so that Europeans don't really like Republicans or is it that they despise just the Republican Presidents in living memory? For various reasons, that is. And they wouldn't care less about Clinton's sexual escapades, on the contrary, as Europeans are indifferent to their leaders being sexually 'versatile' (remember the famous Mitterand-ism : Et allors?).

Most modern Europeans are pacifists and despise war; they had to find out the hard way, suffering two World Wars in less than half a century. Therefore, we can't reasonably reconcile the US negativity towards publicly made known sexual escapades of US political icons with the US tolerance of gun trade and of all sorts of weaponry. And why yet so many states still keep death sentence alive and well. We, Europeans, live more on the premise 'Make Sex, not War'.

If the author of that Edge article is right, then the conclusion he's leading to is that the average US citizen is someone who despises change, looks for sacred values to lean on and is afraid of death, which incidentally could explain why most Americans, especially in rural US, are so actively religious and patriotic. How about us, Europeans then? Well, I guess, we have grown beyond that level. Lack of a common language and culture, two World Wars, and the 'weight' of Communism and Socialism on most of our national political parties in charge (BTW, many ex-Communists joined Green parties nowadays - a simple change of color), make that we appear to be 'a hell of a lot more sophisticated' than average Americans (a lot more complex as the article suggests the Liberals of being); as such we end up supporting them Democrats above Republicans...

I am still having an unanswered question though. If the Big Capital in the US is Republican, how come then these otherwise smart people, often self-made billionaires, come to support a party of 'simple minds'? Is this not unnatural to them? Or is it because they think their hard earned money is safer with a party that protects wealth from taxes and any commie influences? It must be that... The problem with both these US parties is that they themselves are too predictable, conservative and carry the same attributes for decades. As long as Americans maintain the current educational system and allow media (especially TV) to act the way they do there is no hope for real change. Actually the majority of Americans today get a state of mind largely influenced by an Aussie media mogul... how about that?

Who can tell?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

SPORE rules!

Have you lassies and lads checked out this new rage? It promises to be real big. See for yourselves! Good bye Second Life! I couldn't believe I was doing this, a middle aged man with 'some' respect in the community... (probably lost it all by now). Anyhoo, you gotta download the trial version from here. The rest is childplay. The clip above I did in less than 5 min including the creation of the creature itself. I called it VJK Jr! What else? Oh, yes, my creature already mated and got three kids too. See them acting in the clip as well. A big happy family. Hilarious! I promise you, this thing is bound to be a real fav in families with grammar school level kids... not?

Check out this too that I exported to YT. Fun, innit?

On a serious note though. Imagine somebody created a 3D modeling package like the one used in Spore. If you ever worked with 3D modelers (Autocad, 3DS, and piles of others) then you can easily see the benefits of the Spore modeler above anything else on the market. Difficulty number one in all current 'classic' 3D packages is the counter intuitive ways they use to model 3D objects on 2D (flat) monitor screens. Spore has many qualities, but a I like three in particular (even above their real-time renderer with shadows and all, which is a darling as-is): 1) it has a 3D space intelligence and makes modeling on 2D flat monitors quite intuitive (this is also something you often find in other packages as well; I am talking about taking a library object and 'sticking it' on an existing one in order to create an extension. 2) uses libraries of pre-designed objects and offers enough parameters to alter their shape, and 3) MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, it has extensive embedded rules of nature (either physical laws like gravity and inverse kinematics or rules of organic life and knowledge of functionality of organic parts). With packages like this, a future 'Toy Story' will take less than half the time to model , conservatively speaking.

Talking about these embedded rules, figure this: you build a creature's main body by defining the length of its backbone (pulling and pushing) and you then stick a pair of legs to it; the Modeler concludes via the necessary embedded code the kind of advancing movements the creature will be bound to do when using its legs, given its total shape and the position of the added legs with respect to the rest of the body and its center of gravity (navel). The designers of this modeling language (package) are, in other words, pretty smart cookies.

I hope they can use that experience to make a product for general purpose 3D modeling. It's definitely gonna be a winner.

I always liked this kid!

I never seen this clip before. After watching it I like this Jon Stewart even more! What a character!

Dance like no one's watching!

One of the very last blogs of Fake Steve Jobs before he turned into Real Dan Lyons (whose blog, BTW, is a lot of crap compared to FSJ; apparently Sir Daniel proved far better pretending to be someone else than being himself... what a pity) pointed me to that page. Despite its apparent naivety in look and feel, it nevertheless has got something very useful to say. Its message reminded me of someone real close. I had a sister, five years older than me, who lived all her life just like the author of the link describes in his text: looking for happiness and fulfillment in the future, planning the 'tomorrow' all the time and forgetting to cease the 'today'. Only few times in my life, I think, I saw her happy, and that was when dancing in a few parties as I remember... like my father, she really, really loved to dance. The rest of her life she spent in anxiety and stress about finding a partner for herself, getting married, having children, raising her daughters, getting them a husband too, getting grandchildren, saving money, building a house, worrying about her husband losing his job, and much more of that... eventually, poor thing, she came to die far too early at the age of 59, almost a year ago, of an aggressive form of cancer!

This guy's text got me emotional... but, nevertheless, I liked his conclusion a hell lot... I keep on giving a similar advice to friends and family whom I often see getting stressed and frustrated in their eco system because of banal and trivial reasons, having to do with office politics and elbow fights. Life is too bloody short to worry about such matters, folks! Wake up! Get a life!

The closing excerpt of this article:

"...So, treasure every moment that you have. And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time ... and remember that time waits for no one ...

So stop waiting until you finish school ... until you go back to school ... until you lose ten pounds ... until you gain ten pounds ... until you have kids ... until your kids leave the house ... until you start work ... until you retire ... until you get married ... until you get divorced ... until Friday night ... until Sunday morning ... until you get a new car or home ... until your car or home is paid off ... until spring, until summer ... until fall ... until winter ... until you are off welfare ... until the first or fifteenth ... until your song comes on ... until you've had a drink ... until you've sobered up ... until you die ... until you are born again to decide that there is no better time than right now to be happy ...

Happiness is a journey ... not a destination!!

Thought for the day:

"Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Aren't we all?

Check out this article about Apple and its ways. Makes great reading! I like best the following passages:

"...Apple's customers are like no others -- a rich blend of the most sociologically elite with those seeking elegant, simple computing. Apple's panache has enabled them to maintain some of the highest margins in the industry, while also sustaining a brand loyalty level which is the envy of many. Now Apple is making surprising and measurable progress against Windows' dominance with a multi-pronged strategy involving broadened retail, mobile computing, and non-computer products and services....

... In addition to singular demographics, Apple's users have a unique profile in the ways they use their personal computers. Unlike users of Intel/Windows computers, a significant portion of Apple's users are active, exploratory, avantgarde and early adopters. The activities they enjoy are unique in the way that they more-often incorporate rich media such as video and music as well as more-active prosumer behavior than many more-passive Windows users..."

In other words, Windows users possess IQ in the double digits up to a max of 110, 'simple minds', anything but sophisticated... Would that be any true? If yes, start investing in AAPL for your grandchildren because it's gonna take at least a couple more generations for the average android to qualify as an Apple smartie...

Attack of the Beatniks...

Here's an example of what Genius generated based on Van Morrison's track 'Contacting My Angel' out of his Avalon Sunset Album. I am a rock and blues fan (as far as non-classical is concerned) and of some metal, believe it or not (Judas Priest, Metallica,...), and as a baby boomer myself, I am very much into the 60ies, 70ies, and the 80ies, in general. So, out of Morrison's trigger track Genius picked up Dylan, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Lennon, U2, CCR, and a few others... click the capture on the left for full detail. (BTW, the Yusuf Islam dude is a.k.a. Cat Stevens, for those who suspected I was turning into an fundamentalist Muslim insurgent...). Anyways, can you see the 'theme' of the Genius choice? It screams all over loud and clear: Beatnik! Blimey! I didn't even know I had material to assemble a 'Beatnik' collection whatsoever!

For information, in my iTunes library I got a total of 2270 tracks out of 342 albums and 16.77GB of total storage... peanuts by today's standards of Music Library size... (my siblings have got multiples of that). Take my word for it, the tracks that Genius picked to go along with Morrison's 'Angel' work just fine! You gotta hear the collection to get my point. Best thing is to try for yourselves, of course. Like the frogs say 'les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas'.

Whether Genius discovered any songs in my library that I never heard before? You bet! Here's a track from an extended edition of the U2 Joshua tree album that I never enjoyed in its entirety. Lyrics by 'Beatnik' Ginsberg:

America, I've given you all and now I'm nothing
America, two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956
I can't stand my own mind
America, when will we end the human war
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good, don't bother me
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind
America, when will you be angelic
When will you take off your clothes
When will you look at yourself through the grave
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites
America, why are your libraries full of tears
America, when will you send your eggs to India
I'm sick of your insane demands
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks
America, after all, it is you and I who are perfect, not the next world
Your machinery is too much for me
You made me want to be a saint
There must be some other way to settle this argument
Burroughs is in Tangiers
I don't think he'll come back, it's sinister
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke
I'm trying to come to the point
I refuse to give up my obsession
America, stop pushing, I know what I'm doing
America, the plum blossoms are falling
I haven't read the newspapers for months
Everyday somebody goes on trial for murder

I am all deaf on poetry matters, other than Dylan's and Bono's lyrics, but I thought this Ginsberg 'beat' is kinda unusual, and, read by Bono with 'the Edge' pulling some background guitar tones on the Joshua album sounds even better. Agree?

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated...

His Jobness could finally get a few good laughs about "his death" in the recent event in SF in which Apple announced few refreshed versions of its iPods for the Year-End Holiday season. I liked the Jobs picture shot with a gigantic iPod Touch in his hand by a smart Reuters photographer who knew exactly how to capture the moment. That's what photography is all about, innit?

Anyways, I only tried Genius and the iTunes Visualizations so far and upgraded my Touch to 2.1. I also ordered the new 16 GB Touch because I really miss some sound and space on mine (I got the first gen 8 GB); I don't mind the lack of a mike and a telephone function but some minimum level of sound is very much desirable.

The Genius seems pretty smart, I have to say. It's an all new experience. I actually rediscovered scores of forgotten songs hidden deep in my list of hundreds I didn't even know I had; it's worth the try for any owner of iTunes. Actually, you don't even need any iPod to enjoy this facility. All you need is iTunes to organize your music library. And, there are, I reckon, above 100 million people worldwide who do that. I say that speculatively because his Jobness claimed there are 65 million folks worldwide who maintain an Apple iTunes Store account with credit card details spread over 62 countries. Speculating that there are at least as many without any purchasing activity might not be such a crazy idea. I'd even say I might be at the low end of such a speculation. The iTunes store holds more than 3 million titles to sell from. These are astronomical stats. It has grown larger than Wal-Mart in the US in terms of total number of songs sold and is now the number one distributor, claimed El Jobso! How about that?

Anyways, back to Genius. I've got no clue how their (proprietary) algorithms work and even improve in time the quality of track selection, and I am sure they do (I could easily think of a few simple ways one can do that) but even in these early stages it seems to work just fine. You play a song from your library, any song, you press the Genius button, and... voila! There comes a selection of alike songs from your library. Genius bases this selection on genres, star rankings you may have given to your songs, number of times you played them, and I also strongly believe, the position of your songs in international ranking charts. I have observed that some tracks from any given CD, which happened to be international hits sometime in the past, are selected above other similar songs of same artist on same CD that didn't make it to the ranks (Top 10/20/50/100). To most people, hit songs sound 'better' on a randomly generated collection than any other songs.

This Genius trick works just fine directly on an iPod Touch as well. You drive your car, you are tired listening to the same stuff, so all you have to do, you select one of your favorite songs, hit the Genius button and start listening a collection of 25, 50 or 100 songs buried in your library. Like the collection? Save it on the fly and burn it on a CD later to share it with friends and enemies. Ain't that somethin'?

Finally, there's not much to say about visualizations other than Apple's are the most spectacular I ever seen in my life. Look even much cooler if you connect your Mac to a HDTV. Looks like you're discovering new worlds after... an exaggerated death... not?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

US of A!

I like USA a lot! Many reasons for that. Above all, half a dozen of my best and most loyal friends are living there. I feel like going home when I get back to the US. Even as I pass through Immigration checks. But above all, despite what many US haters are saying, I like the US system as is, their checks and balances, the structure of their Economy, their Wall st. and Nas, their Supermarkets, their architectural monuments, their opportunity to make billionaires out of homeless, their love for heros. 'Think big' was invented here. Nowhere in the world could be possible to create gigantic monsters like Walmart, Coca Cola, Apple, and Google in the way it is done in the US. You can only find University establishments like Stanford and MIT in a country like the US (regardless whether most of their best researchers and lecturers are Asian and European).

I don't travel to the US too often nowadays. Just came back from a week's trip but before that it was only back in August 2005. I used to be quite often there in the second half of the 90ies and the first couple of years of the current century. As I went back again this last time, many small details I used to like and admire and some that I hated, came back to mind, and I loved it. Le'me give you some examples.

Commercial focus: As a rule, the country is built upon the principle of openness and politeness towards prospects and clients. Everyone cares for customers and their business everywhere in the world, goes without saying... but in the US, as a customer you really feel you are in the middle of all attention, at all times. They greet you as you come into their premises, they'll ask you if you need any help, they'll go thru anything possible to fulfill your needs and, even if you don't buy anything, they'll thank you upon your exit for dropping by and ask you to come back again. Show me one shop in Europe that does that! Just one shop! Go visit any shop, even US franchisers like GAP and McDonald's, in Paris, France for instance, and tell me how 'friendly' their salespeople are, especially if you have trouble expressing yourself in their native language ("C'est cool et sympa" sort of thing - if you know what I mean).

I was impressed particularly by the cashiers at Duane & Reade, a Drugstore chain in Manhattan with stores in every corner of the city, I'd say, in the hundreds (I reckon they even beat Starbucks). You go find your items, walk to the cashier next, and first thing she asks: "Did you manage to find everything?"... if you go, "Yes, I did", she is like, "is there anything more you need?". Jeez, Maria, Josef! It's a bleedin' drugstore for crying out loud! They never stop selling you stuff in the US. No wonder the best management books about sales skills have been written by American authors. No wonder Amazon was a US start-up! Eventually, everything the rest of us are doing in the rest of the world is copying their models.

Cash is king: US seems to be unique in terms of total consumption. In Belgium, we save our money, in the US people spend it. I reckon, an average dollar bill must change hands at least ten times more often over its life time than any other equivalent currency, bill or coin, anywhere in the world. Money moves in the US! Cash in particular. Americans love to take a bunch of bills out of their pocket and start counting what they need to do a payment. Especially when they pay cabs or tip bellboys. In Europe, nobody counts money in public, in America they love doing it! Another mystery, a buck was worth a lot 40 years ago. Nowadays, it's like a Euro... you can't survive on a buck, and a cent (in both currencies) is a... joke. I can't get it that they still use paper bills for a single dollar. And still using cents and nickels! I was carrying about half a kg of coins the last day and was out to go look for beggars and homeless to unload them. I had more than a handful of just cent coins in my hand at one point when I saw a cripple sitting by the side of the street holding a plastic beverage cup for passer's-by offerings. I was embarrassed to tell him "sorry, they are only cents..." and he is like, "don't worry... it's still money". And he seemed just grateful. Money is still money! A simple statement by someone struggling to survive day in day out! How about that?!

Everything is there out in the open: It seems that there aren't many secrets in this country, especially about those in public life. The days we were there, it was just made public that Sarah Palin's 17 year old was an early screwer and got herself pregnant. And within micro-secs everybody had to hear the story of the boyfriend's life three generations deep. Something like this too about the frames-design of Palin's spectacles. The Japanese designer and manufacturer will end up earning a fortune selling Palin's fashionable frames. Which reminds me... When King Baudouin of Belgium visited Kongo fifty years ago, he had those typical myopic round frames that 'intellectuals' often wear. Within days, scores of natives used some waste wire and made frames in the shape of the King's spectacles. They wore them with no lenses though. When asked why doing this, they were like "Comme le Roi Baudouin!". Are modern Americans sometimes like those Kongo natives 50 years ago, somehow? I wish I didn't ask that question...

To be cont'd...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

OMG! I am three degrees away from Ross Perot!

As I was wondering around in hot and humid Manhattan last week, and window-shopping at Barnes and Noble on 5th Av, I came across this book shown here on the left, by Sam Wyly, a self-made billionaire from Dallas, Tx. Fresh from the Press, it was piled at B&N among many other recent book editions about management and business. I purchased it in a heartbeat! Although, I have to admit, I had quite mixed feelings about the author at the time of the purchase. At that particular moment, I also could not suspect that I'd read that book at all, almost in heartbeat as it appeared, in the cabin darkness of night flight AA172 to Brussels few days later. Le'me explain...

The Author Sam Wyly was, among other things, a co-founder of Sterling Software; a company that I worked for between 1997 to the day the 'Wyly clan' sold us to Computer Associates in March 2000. Le'me tell you: When you get sold to another company it ain't easy. You gotta prove yourself all over... you gotta make new friends, discover the new power insiders to lean on, build everything from scratch. Trust me, I know. I got sold like this THREE times in my career! There's always some positive news in a sale though. You get rid of some folks who used to depress you in the previous company... it's like a fresh start and you get careful not to repeat past mistakes again, if you can... that's something happening as a rule in most takeovers. So not all is that bad...

My work experience at Sterling Software was immense! If that was the only company I had ever worked for (I was there just short of three years or, less than 10% of my working career so far), I'd say it was worth the ride more than anything; in the words of ex-colleague and dear friend Mario Mees, who now works for monstrous Microsoft, "a month's planning session at Sterling was worth a full year MBA at Harvard", even better than that, I'd add. Ninety percent of what I ever learned about best management practices I learned there. Early in my blogging adventures I even started writing stuff about that experience. I don't have to anymore. Sam Wyly done this, way better, in his book shown here.

I haven't known Sam personally at all! He was never there. He was the BoD chairman but even under my worldwide Group President's hat that I carried in the last six months before the sale to CA, I was far too insignificant and remote for him to deal with. He only dealt with Sterling Williams himself, our company CEO. Even the Sterling Software COO, Geno Tolari, my last boss there and a great friend ever since, didn't have much to do with Wyly. Sam was a hidden watcher who eventually decided to get rid of the company and sell it to CA (that was starving for another high profile acquisition at the time). All that before the Internet Bubble burst! In which sell transaction Wyly made a cool 4 Billion green ones for the investor community, the company Directors and (of course) himself and his brother Charles. Bringing the both of them (74 and 75 yrs old respectively, today) closer to the Forbes billion dollar mark they both so much have been fighting for. Entrepreneurship is mostly about money and power, right? Don't let 'em fool you if they claim otherwise.

Many SSW investors (and Directors) got a big smile on their face at the CA announcement. All except most active employees... As the saying went those days, kinda like, ABC (Anyone But CA). Meaning, avoid being acquired by (CA Chairman) Charles Wang and his infamous streetfighters (not all true market rumors though, as I discovered much later... some of my best friends today are among those 'impossible' predators the market rumors had it all about - so, always judge for yourself... never trust a gossip). Anyways...

If you Google 'Sam Wyly' or, even better, read his Wikipedia article, you'll learn much about his character. I believe that he, like anyone else with a human body and mind, has both strengths and weaknesses. There have been in times quite a few controversial articles against the Wyly brothers. And if, God forbid, McPalin wins next November's elections, then, something he did to the McCain campaign in 2000 (in order to help his buddy George W win the Republican Party Presidential Nomination) might come back to haunt him... Like gettin' the SEC or a Giuliani-like DA character up his ass... payback time! 

Of course, because of his current 'power', generous philanthropy, and social/business relationships, that he actually earned as a self made entrepreneur, he has much more visibility and impact on the world and the media than any commoner like you and I. Someone who can claim personal acquaintances with Ross Perot and George W. Bush has got to be 'somebody' right? Them big shots wouldn't bother writing testimonials on the back of his book if he was a 'nobody', right? Let's see...

Anyways, I can't verify this for a fact as I never worked side by side with the man, the ways he describes about running his businesses are things I saw and experienced in real. Not always with success but most of the times. And his management philosophy seems the correct one. Not too original and basically it's all about fundamental management integrity, delegation of responsibility and management empowerment, coming out of classic textbooks starting with P. Drucker and some great men's biographies (Walton, Carnegie) but, the thing is, what he writes seems to be working. I saw that at Sterling Software, where, despite many moments of stress and unbearable pressures, eventually turned out the right way.

When I worked there I worshipped Sterling Williams like a semi-God! Reading Wyly's memoirs now, I've got a serious dilemma. How much of that management philosophy was inspired by his personal contribution and how much was Sterling's? Wyly claims in the book most of that was his. Those days, I thought Wyly was a lucky freaktard who didn't do that much other than play golf, screw around in sportswear and make billions watching the rest of us sweat. And that Sterling Williams had to deserve all the credit... Well, I'm not so sure anymore...

PS. To all folks who worked at SSW, this is a must read... take my word for it. And it reads real smooth. Sam (or his ghostwriter) seem to be great storytellers. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

McCain for President!

My European friends must think I'm gone nuts at the reading of this blog title... until they watch Jon Stewart's video clip. Anyways, there is a sense in the US that us, Europeans, love US Democrats as a matter of rule. Basically, most of us believe than the difference between US Democrats and Republicans is similar to the difference between Coke and Pepsi. Only problem, after 8 years of Bush Jr. Administration, Europeans don't feel very safe, and we feel, even within our own territories, economically down the drain (inflation, price of crude, rate of the $ vs €, to name a few problems) than when blowjob Clinton was in power. And, truth be told, Barack Obama seems to run circles around the old man who picked that Mary Poppins character to run with him for the Presidency of the greatest nation on Earth! Even if you watch them both (Obama and McCain) on a TV set and, even mute the sound, you see the obvious difference. You can so easily tell (at least if you don't live in the US) who emanates leadership and who wants to play macho but really behaves like a goldfish that jumped out of its water ball by accident. How come the majority of Americans don't see that yet? Blame their media and their education system. Both are geared towards creating mentally disadvantaged androids out of normal people! Must be that.

Honey! I'm home!

Yep... we got home from a seven day escapade in NYC. But honey ain't home. She's been weekending in Paris with our two eldest siblings. What a family! Can't get our ass under our own house roof! Always traveling and going places! Sourtoukia, as my mom used to say!

Anyway, I got all the peace I needed coming back from one of the busiest and loudest places on earth, the heart of Manhattan! This morning a phone call woke me up from a friend asking old copies of our 'de Morgen' papers for some work at school of one of her kids. I thought it was 7 am. It wasn't. Was exactly 9:59am! I don't remember the last time I was still in bed at 10am on a Sunday morning! Must have been years ago, if ever! Was good that this call woke me up, otherwise I might have been embarrassed to do leave bed at midday or past. Anyways. It's 16 degrees Centigrade and raining! Wonderful! Just what I need! Noooot?!

NYC is haunting us. Two late films on TV yesterday, the most recent Pink Panther and Carlito's way, both showing parts of the city where we've been almost hours ago. Especially, the shooting at the Waldorf entrance on Park Ave... only thirty hours ago, I took a picture exactly from the same angle they have been showing. Theirs was much better though. Whatever!

I started putting together a Blurb book about our trip and it's real fun to see once again the hundreds of pictures I shot. I only now realized that I hadn't actually seen most of them yet! Terrible!

Look at the shot above! There's no green screen involved. The picture is shot at this modern sculpture at the bottom of Wall st, on either Front or the Water str, I can't exactly remember. If you have Photoshop available, try this for yourselves. Shoot a panoramic picture of something with a human subject in one of the first shots and in one of the last, and then stitch them together with File/Automate/Photomerge.../Automatic. The rest is done by Photoshop itself. Don't worry about the rules of panoramic shooting too much. Photoshop is clever to correct possible mistakes you've done as well. See more of my pans here. The ones we shot at the Marriott with Terry fooling himself are done like this shown above too. Actually, it was his idea to try this trick! Well done kid!