Saturday, March 16, 2013

A tulip's passing...

If you want to play this slideshow, make sure you turn on your music at the tune of Alexandre Desplat's "Awakening", track nr 5 of his soundtrack for the movie The Tree of Life
I find the beauty of dead flowers stunning. It takes some time for them to perish, and their beautiful colours, when still alive, remain vivid for some time after their petals fall off and their leaves collapse. I love the colours and shapes and forms of dead flowers, I admit it. As much as I adore them while they are alive, I often prefer to photograph them in their process of decomposing. You know, each one of has his/her weak spots; this is mine. I hope you forgive me...

Friday, March 15, 2013

It sounds like music to my ears... tell'em kid!

Read today here:

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets, who has a Buy rating on Apple shars and an $888 price target, writes that “we view the Galaxy S 4 as a refresh but NOT a game changer.”
“We believe the iPhone 5S will handily outsell Samsung’s new flagship smartphone in the second-half of the year, while we believe Apple will expand its world with a lower-priced iPhone in 2013.”
Samsung is engaging in something of a “shell game,” thinks White:
One of the strong points of the Galaxy S 4 is the Full HD Super AMOLED display with 441 ppi, above the 326 ppi found on the iPhone 5 and the 400 ppi on the new LG (066570 KS- KRW79,800: NR) Optimus G Pro. However, the Galaxy S 4 is slightly below the 443 ppi five-inch smartphone introduced by Sharp (6753JP) in 4Q12 with IGZO technology and the 498 ppi display that was shown off at CES. Essentially, we expect competitors to unveil smartphones with a similar ppi this year and ultimately we believe Apple will adopt Sharp’s IGZO display technology [...] We consider the iPhone 5 a work of art and Apple’s ability to deliver a device that came with a larger screen (4-inch vs. 3.5-inch) versus the 4S but one that was 18% thinner and 20% lighter was a monumental task. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S 4 is 5 inches vs. 4.8 inches for the Galaxy S 3 but only 8% thinner and 2% lighter. At the same time, the iPhone 5 is 4% thinner than the Galaxy S 4 and 14% lighter. With the iPhone 5S expected to launch this summer, we believe Apple has the potential for even further improvements in this department. Also, polycarbonate (i.e., plastic) casing of the Galaxy S 4 is still no match for the aesthetics of the iPhone 5 with the aluminum unibody enclosure. Samsung’s Smartphone Shell Game Obfuscates Apple’s Share Growth. We are amazed by how analysts and the media have turned on Apple during the recent stock downdraft with statements that Samsung is “out-innovating” Apple. One would believe that Samsung is crushing Apple in the mobile phone market. We believe this is complete nonsense. We believe the smartphone market share comparison between Samsung and Apple is like comparing apples with oranges. When analyzing the mobile phone market in 4Q12 as reported by IDC, Samsung grew its mobile phone unit shipments by 12.3% YoY vs. 29.2% for Apple.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Great thinking, PASOK! More so!

PASOK's Venizelos
I need your help, please. I'm getting insane. True story. I seem to have forgotten each and every word of my mother-tongue. I'm reading an article this morning in the Greek Daily Ta Nea and I don't seem to understand anything from what it's trying to explain. You could use Google Translate to try for yourselves. But lemme tell you what I reckoned from reading it, and tell me if it's me who's getting nuts or the entire bleeding political gang in that country has become abusive beyond imagination and still trying the same old tricks. They probably fooled their electorate for forty years now, but are they in their right minds trying to cheat the rest of us with their garbage proposals? What did these folks smoke for breakfast? I really wonder!

Ok, here it goes. PASOK, the ruling party of the Papandreou clan for far too long to be any good, came out with a new proposal to 'tackle the unemployment burden' and create 'hundreds of thousands of new jobs!' 700 thousand in fact. Wow! And Wow again! Where have you been all my life, mate? Oh, you been there all the time, you said? I wonder what took you so long, Mr Venizelos (the current PASOK president), to come up with such an ingenious plan? Heard this Barack? Listen carefully, you might be enlightened too by Kyrios (Mr.) Venizelos's unparalleled wisdom! OK, here are the mechanics of the proposal. Buckle up and listen carefully. At the end of the story I'm gonna ask you for a vote, about the level of insanity and lack of touch with reality of those proposals.

Proposal NR 1: Maintain and support (these are terms they used) of half a million jobs in branches of the industry at risk. Which ones? I mean, which Industries and companies? Nothing specified. How do you select those? The criteria they propose are vague and undefined. So how do you come to half a million jobs? Do you supply cash to companies with the request not to fire people and keep them employed? How do you define which businesses are rotten to the bone and they are better off by going bankrupt instead of prolonging their death by injecting temporary cash? No word about the real questions. But listen further. The cost of this effort is estimated at 500 million euro. That is 1000 euro per job, if my math still works, right? What is this? An average of one month's pay? They are going to save these jobs for how long, they said? No mention of anything about that, mind you! OK, I am a modest businessman with a little company 50 workmen, 3 admins and myself producing fruit that we export to Germany. Business suckz and I got to fire at least 20 workmen and one admin. What is dear Venizelos telling me then? That I'm gonna get a whole 21 K to keep them employed? For how long? A whole bleeding month? Gosh, I solved my problem. Singing my way to Alpha bank!

But let's continue:

Proposal NR 2: Create an additional 100 thousand new jobs for social workers -listen carefully now, I'll only say this once!- at a cost of 450 million euros (that's four and a half months of pay, all of a sudden, not just a month as for the private sector). Add to that another 20 thousand jobs in cooperative companies of social purpose (someone explain that to me, please) for an incremental cost of 100 million. That's 5 months pay... we keep increasing the figures, eh? Civil servants are worth to Greek parties far more than private (5x PASOK reckons) and provide good votes at the polls!

Let's hold it for a minute. The math on these first two proposals tells us simply that Venizelos values a job in the private sector at one single month's pay, tops, whereas in his beloved area of social workers (socialist party you see) he multiplies that by 4.5 and 5 respectively (both in Proposal 2). Mind you, the proposed monetary support in Proposal 1 at least addresses genuine GDP contributors, whereas in Proposal 2 it's only about civil servants. The exact area where Greece's lenders (Troika) asked the buggers to start cutting... Reminds me of a personal experience back in the US when I was dealing with a loss making branch of our ops in Japan that I was asked to bring back to profitability... Big laughs! Anyways. Question: Will those PASOK geniuses ever learn, or are they testing the limits of our tolerance? Again? Can't believe it!

Proposal NR 3: Create another 80 thousand new jobs at the cost of 250 million for young people to gain experience. That's between 3 and 5 months of pay. Next what? Are they going to gain the experience of a lifetime by working for three to five months? And, ok, let's say they learn something. Where exactly do you put them to do the learning? In local government again? More civil servants then? No, he sez, we'll put them in the private sector. Well, kiddo, did you think that a struggling businessman will create job opportunities for funding he's gonna get to cover half a year's pay, tops? Not me. That's firefighting. It's nothing for a real cure long term. Did Venizelos ever had a real job in his life? Really! Or does he think that Greece's problems are over by end of the current fiscal? Dream on...

In my simple and humble mind, I suspect PASOK has fallen so low in the polls that they are now trying ultra populist argumentation that they don't even understand themselves (they counted this plan euro by euro, they said; lemme laugh) to win electorate back from the left (Tsipras). The clash of the populists is raging.

The country needs more than firefighting. Needs management and vision. Needs real fight against corruption with those responsible behind bars for the rest of their miserable lives and their wealth repossessed by the state. Needs real education of their youth, that even today, unemployed one in two, still get the necessary dough from those miserable parents of theirs to pay a scotch or three a day at 7 euros a piece, in the local bar. While complaining about the economy and their government. How about changing the culture and the idea that most Greeks nurture that only Greeks are the salt of the earth...

I'll spare you the rest of the article. It's so insane to even mention anything about. Like, Venizelos found potential pockets full of euros and cents to fund these phenomenal plans of his, by moving them coins from one box to another. He's also said that he is presenting this outstanding and unique plan to the reps from Troika. Expecting 'positive' reactions. Is he feckin' mad? Now tell me, how can Frau Merkel keep her calm with idiots like these? Then, it's all the fault of the Germans again. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Today's diary - Day 3

Mid March and haven't had such a winter show-off for hundreds of years in this country. I'm sick and tired of the snow this year. It's pretty cold, but that doesn't bother me much, since I'm staying at home. Traffic jams all-time Belgian record was reached today with 1600 km of traffic jam during rush hour this morning. People took ages to get to work, where under normal conditions it'd  also take ages! The whole of Western Europe was actually screwed up big time, today. Just saw yesterday evening's footage from the Northwest of France. Poor buggers were left without electricity too. This morning train traffic here was in shambles. Passengers have been waiting their connections for hours. Awful. All this in bleeding March! What else? Frankfurt airport, down and closed for three hours. Imagine the chaos. It's good to be a pensioner in days like this. -10° Celsius is the forecast for tonight. Thank God, we'll stay dry though. No more snow. I hope.
I had not much to do to waste my time this morning, so I stayed protected behind my double glazing windows and 'enjoyed' other people's misery, going to work or school by car, on foot or on their bikes. I shot tens of pictures of pedestrians, bikers and car drivers. Link to flickr via the links supplied in the beginning of this paragraph to see for yourselves. Even the worst blizzard won't stop four and five year olds from going to school, in the arms of their dad or granddad, a few even carrying the school bags on a sleigh! The weather in this part of the world is really so bad, winter and summer included, that the last thing that'd stop people from going on with their lives is some snow weather. That reminds me of some other place where half an inch snow would paralyse the entire bleeding country. A good excuse to stay home and eat roasted chestnuts. Increased queues at the doctor's waiting room for a 'day's' flu certificate for the employer too. The TV reports this evening only had one subject. The snow chaos! Ever thought how the world would be like if water was freezing at -20° instead of zero degrees? Would that solve all our problems? Who knows... 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Today's diary - Day 2

Who knows, maybe this becomes a new habit of mine. I recently saw a BBC documentary from some time ago about Leo Tolstoy and was intrigued about how people 150 years ago kept daily diaries, even by both spouses in a household, that is. They also shared those between them as a token of devotion and eternal 'love'. I'm sharing mine with the world, regardless there will only be a handful who'd really bother reading them. No worries. Couldn't care less. Just expressing opinions...

Chavez cont'd. I saw a series of photographs by Reuters yesterday of Venezuelans mourning his death and taking it to the streets. Heartbreaking shots of unseen public hysteria. I made a selection of few among those pictures and sent them to my 'jokes' list of recipients. This is a list of folks worldwide, friends, relatives and close acquaintances that send me and receive from me all sorts of Internet wisdoms and jokes (some spicy, among other... don't we all do this?). Anyways, I got a reaction from Katmandu (yes, Nepal, no shit) and one from Athens, Greece, saying that we, in the West, actually know far too little about him (other than his populist bullying of the leaders of the West), and that he did a lot for his people. That's why they mourn him. Some of it must be true I gather. Good for him. May he rest in peace. That's what many Italians also say about Sylvio as well. Among ourselves boys and gals, I like Sylvio. His political opponents, traditional Italian parties, having failed miserably in the past on domestic issues (it's not only the Greeks holding that trophy, mind you), not being able to deal with him on the acute social and economic, let alone political issues that hold Italy awake these days, have turned over to a war of Tabloids instead. I have known of him as the President of Fininvest in the 80ies, when his company was a consulting customer of ours. Yep, Fininvest was one of our most important customer references. We did quite some work on ITC strategy for them, in times most other companies couldn't even spell the word properly. And Sylvio was on top of things, I remember. I was actually told that by one of our senior consultants who happened to have met Berlusconi in project meetings (that's good ol' Graham Price, an ex-Xerox Corp executive, RIP, passed in 1999). Yep, I was one of the 'lucky' ones to have heard about the Maestro before the rest of the world crowds came to hear and hate him. It was the time of the capitalist rebels in Italy, the likes of Berlusconi and Carlo de Benedetti. Against the traditional 'aristocracy' of the Agnelli's and others like them. Viva Sylvio? Why not?

AAPL: Motley Fool reports an Apple downgrade by Barenberg Bank, moving its target from 800 bucks to 360! Reminds me of those clowns who put the same AAPL target at 1111 bucks half a year ago! The BB analyst also moved them from Buy to Sell! Can you imagine this? This alone tells you the whole story about this idiot. A 'sell' recommendation is something you never see mentioned about blue chips, unless they are headed to disaster and everybody knows that from the actual facts, that is their financial reports. How can you recommend selling a stock of a company who still turns around margins of 40%, grows at the speed of light and dominates the world in everything surrounding our electronic being? Not to forget the mountain of cash they are sitting on, estimated at the best part of 150 billion US, as we speak. So, my recommendation is this. Stay away from Barenberg Bank. If that's the sort of analysts they employ, they are actually acting along the top clowns and comedians of the world, going after simple sensation alone; they'd be the last place on earth I'd trust any of my hard earned dough to. To talk about another bank, UBS of all people, published far more reasonable reports recently urging investor patience, by looking at the real facts. Well, that's what makes the difference between the Swiss and Americans. The Swiss love facts and solid foundations, whereas Americans are swearing by 'hot air rhetorics', TV preachers and sensation gurus! Pity that they still control most of the world's wealth in their hands. Not for long, I hope. Here cometh People's Republic of China!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today's diary...

Chavez: The day started with the news of his passing. Radio bulletins here spoke of a populist socialist leader. The one who dared challenge George W. and called him, straight in his face, cowboy and a donkey! A South American Berluscone. He wasn't able to defeat cancer though. Cancer is the only solid way left to rid oneself of populist leaders, especially those calling themselves socialists. In a sense, Communists were at least less pretentious prats and called it what it was. A Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
We got plenty of them soft Socialists around, abusing in the name of democracy and freedom the wealth of the countries that trusted them with their leadership. Look no further than Greece for this. The ruling PASOK (thank God not anymore as ruling as used to be) created a new dominant class in the center left, inside which it elevated scores of incompetent apparachiks, many of whom came from rural territories with little knowledge of the real world, and turned into notorious abusers and champions of corruption. I hope they put them one by one behind bars for a very long time! Like they did to the 1967 colonels, 8 years later. At least, Hugo escaped the bars...

AAPL: The raid by the Hedgies on the best company ever invented by man continues. For the first time since a long time the company is valued at less than 400B. There is an increasing pressure by the hedgies to get some real cash out of the company, with w√ľnderkind David Einhorn carrying the flag. I don't like hedgies and their ways too much, as they are increasingly destroying the markets, where neither fundamentals not technicals can give you any clues about whether to invest in a given name or stay away from it. They provide liquidity in the market, they say, by trading anything that moves from penny stocks to big caps, and at the same time they have been able to wipe out of Apple's valuation more value than the entire market cap of lame duck Microsoft, and Google too, taken separately however. Apple's management is much softer than His Jobness and therefore, think the Hedgies, let's put some pressure upon them to return some more dividend cash. The AAPL dividend yield used to be in the region of 1.5% and has now risen by one percent points solely due to its last six months downhill ride. Many blue chips pay in dividends more than that though, but others, with a shedload of cash too, like Google, are paying a diddle squat (but the 'market' is still forgiving them, until their turn arrives and their bubble bursts too). The entire world of wannabe 'analysts', tech gurus and 'business experts', who never worked in a 'real' company but pretend to know everything about running a business, are out there with doomsday scenarios for Apple every single moment for the last six months. The pile of crap I have read during this time about why Apple is 'dead' money and will be another Microsoft or RIM and NOKIA are beyond belief. What is the problem with these people? Don't they get laid decently or what? Thank God, the wisest man of the lot, good old Warren Buffett came out yesterday urging Apple Management to ignore Einhorn and simply buy back some stock with their mountain of cash. I'm not sure he's absolutely right on this, but the fact alone that he said something about it is important. The stock eventually moved up yesterday, along with the day's trend, following Warren's remarks. Any connection between the two? Who knows?

Windows 8: I read an article this morning about what a new revenue disaster area for Microsoft this one has been again. We thought we saw everything with Vista, but Windows 8 has done even worse. The article spoke about 8 to 10 reasons why Win 8 is crap, but who cares? Microsoft has lost it for more than 10 years now. Ballmer has got simply now clue. He's lost is a sea of corporate bullshit, he keeps making himself a clown with what he says, and even more so for what he does or doesn't do, and he couldn't tell (or spell) either 'strategy' or 'innovation' even if it hit him in his baldy skull! Unfortunately Bill and his charming wife Melinda are committed to 'saving' the world these days, and Bill is doing one mistake after another by keeping Monkey Boy in the reigns, so best thing we can all do is go sell any MSFT stock if we still hold any. This is simply 'dead' money. In 10 years from now, we'll still find Windows in technology graveyards. This time over Apple's ideas weren't stolen by Bill, but by Google's Largey and their squirrel boy chairman Eric Schmidt, not the Microsoft dinos: the latter stayed blindfolded by their own arrogance!

Publishing of the future: I'm helping an author friend with her third literary publication in two years, a poetry bundle this time, and came to consider the practices of this book (print) publishing industry all over again. On one hand you got the independent online publishers, like Lulu, Blurb and one from Amazon itself. You send them online your properly designed and formated book as a simple pdf, and they do the rest. Digital printing it is called. No obligation to print anything more than one single copy, mind you. No start up funding for offset plates and hundreds of books committed to print in the socalled 'First' edition. They will regularly launch attractive discounts for any number of copies and offer considerable volume discounts in the high double digit percentages. All in digital prints and with proper binding mind you, like I mentioned. Suppose you are a start up author of some sort. Or maybe an one time author, possibly so. You want to publish your book the traditional way. You ain't got a single penny to scratch your ass, but the large Publishing Houses, a bunch of T-Rex dinos relying upon pretentious selection committees with members from the tribe of sour critics that is, have you waiting for months or years for their accept/reject verdict. These folks only look for best sellers in fact, and the only way they'll cope with you is when you throw an attractive number of kilo dollars in their lap, for using their Brand Name and Good Reputation! That's one of the reasons even best selling authors ended up using obscure Publishing Houses that nobody knew, as a reaction, when they experienced the traditional T-Rex Houses wouldn't pay any attention to them. Sheer arrogance all over again. So, what do you do? Well, maybe the same as I did. Just pissed all over their thick skin by neglecting them altogether and selected Independence over Pretence instead. In the meantime, those 'traditional' ways are starving out as their businesses go broke and become increasingly extinct. Either adapt and grow or stay put and die!
Another painful experience in the business of authoring, especially for those writers doing this for a living, are the traditional outlets for selling their marchandise. The so-called 'bookshops'. Not only they taketh a huge cut off the value of the items they carry, for holding the 'stock' in their premises and displaying them in their windows, but above all, they keep those needy authors unpaid. Bookshop owners will carry the stock alright, and also require their own buyers to pay cash on the spot. Authors however, simple people from the normal authoring crowd (not the Dan Browns of this world), will have to wait for ever to get paid. This is quite a common practice everywhere, far more so in markets under the black clouds of the current 'economy crisis', like in my fatherland, it certainly is the dominant practice.
What do you do then as an ambitious new author? You just ignore the bastards. Desintermediation all over again. Sell directly to end buyers. Switch off those feckers and sell to the members of your trapline public, be creative thru social networks and spread the word of mouth. Long live Internet for this. eMail and the Web! You might not become a bestselling author right away though, but at least you are not enriching abusers and pretentious bookshop owners, and one way or another you are covering your expenses at least. My own experience of book publishing thru Lulu in print or electronic form has been superb. No financial risk, and a broad spectrum of services for designing, printing and making your goodies known all over the global village, Planet Earth. I even known of people, not especially talented literature authors themselves, who have been systematically publishing for years on Amazon, away indeed from the usual suspect celeb 'labels' or 'brands', and still managed to sell books in the millions. This is the name of the game for the years to come, kids. Current and future authors selecting the independent publishing business model will be singing their way to the bank, looking the other way when they come across incidental memorial ceremonies and obituaries in the graveyards of the Traditional dino Houses, that is...