Thursday, November 30, 2006

Beware of those old work emails!

New rules go into effect today - December 1 - that effectively require businesses to track emails, IMs and other digital information generated at work, for the purpose of aiding in discovery for lawsuits that may occur at some point:

New rules make firms track e-mails, IMs

This is a good opportunity for me to point out how easily digital information can be tracked, archived and resurrected when we least expect it. So, be careful when dashing off hastily-typed notes to coworkers that may be taken as incriminating at some point down the line. More importantly, though, be mindful of the IMs sent to friends and colleagues, and think carefully about the digital photos stored on cell phones or work laptops. Seems like Big Brother just got a bit cozier in our virtual living room.

On the other hand, it forces companies and employees to be more scrupulous about how they handle and store their digital correspondence - and in particular, makes it more difficult for corporations to hide incriminating documents by digitally "shredding" them.

Monday, November 27, 2006

pretty good show

Madeleine Peyroux has added a show at Smothers Theater here on campus 2/18/2007 (hard to plan so far ahead...) Tickets are $46, but because you have been generous with your tuition, they are offering a healthy discount.


she's not my all time favorite, but for $10 I am considering it. Anyone seen her live?

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Poor are Bankable (and profit is good for non-profits:)

The Net Impact Conference 2006 conference held in Chicago at the Kellogg School of Business, was an in-depth introduction for me to the concept of Microfinancing. Accion International María Otero President & CEO, ACCION International and panelists Ken Appenteng and Beth Houle from Opportunity International Bank added to my knowledge of Microfinancing. I have integrated what I learned at the conference with the article by Muhammad Yunus who won the 2006 Nobel Peace prize for his work in Microfinancing with Grameen Bank

There are two presumptions about the poor within banking/financing industry.

  1. Poor people don’t need banking services
  2. Poor people are not bankable as they lack collateral

Microfinance works on the basis that character acts as collateral. First, groups choose members based on the degree of trust they place on each individual. Second, a loan to an individual is not given until the other member within the group has paid up what has been borrowed. Thus, social pressure acts as a deterrent against defaulting on loans. Additionally individuals who repay in time get higher loan amounts next time.

What is the advantage of small aid with terms of repayment vs. large financial aid provided by developed nations? Why not just give money out free? The article says, governmental aid leads to people inflating their needs, amounts received by the people who really need it is low and there is less room to react quickly to needs as time is required to get aid authorized.

The low default rates and the large potential market in the microfinance industry is attracting a lot of new entrants. There are potentially a lot of shake-ups in the horizon for this industry.

Recent developments in the industry is the introduction of a smart card that has complete data about the borrower on the card. Using biometrics technology, the fingerprint is embedded and so benefits the uneducated poor. In the past that thumbprint signed away their lives to the moneylenders but now it saves them.

Connotations of the word "profit" and its association with nonprofits should not be looked at negatively. Microfinance companies need to make a profit for long-term sustainability, i.e. to stay in business. The major criticism is directed towards the rate of interest charged. Interest rates can range from 4% and above (however, I have yet to research into the range of interest rates charged by various Microfinance providers).

Growing up in India I have seen the backlash of moneylenders who demand decades of free labor (bonded labor) in addition to very high interest rates. Local moneylenders also charge high interest rates for safekeeping money of the poor. That is where Microfinance companies come in by providing basic banking services and help prevent the poor from being exploited. The biggest contribution of Microfinance has been towards the empowerment of women. Teach a woman to stash money away not under the pillow but in the bank and you would lower the probability of food for the family being lost to the local bar in the village.


New Realism, just like the Old Realism

Most in Washington seem to be waiting with bated breath for the Baker/Hamilton Study Group to pull a rabbit out of a hat in terms of options for Iraq. Not everyone is so willing to defer to their opinions.


There has been some tough criticism from Victor Hanson (on the Right) and Michael Kinsley (on the Left) about leaving it up to the old guard to solve current problems.

Hanson (who was just on campus last month) is cynical about an old dog and new tricks:

Next will come the Baker group report on Iraq— no doubt with more calls to reassure regional dictatorships and to ask them to help stabilize” Iraq, as if such creepy strongmen would find anything to their advantage in having a successful democracy next door.

And we should remember a few things about the return of “realism which is really just an academic veneer to the old isolationism. This was a policy that gave us the arming of Osama bin Laden et. al. to stop the Soviets in Afghanistan, sort of played Iraq off against Iran in their murderous war of the 1980s, abandoned the Kurds, favored the Soviet Gorbachev over the Russian Yeltsin, stopped outside Baghdad and let the Shiites and Kurds be gunned down after urging them to revolt, let Milosevic do his murdering unopposed, and established a revolving door in the Middle East in which former American officials simply went out of office and into great profit by using their past contacts to be rewarded with legal, financial, and arms links to petro-dollar rich dictatorships ...
Kinsley wonders why are we so interested in listening to James Baker anyway?

If we had wanted our country to be run by James Baker, we had our chance. He was interested in running for president in 1996 but discovered that his interest in a James Baker presidency was not widely shared. . . . People like Baker always favor a bipartisan consensus.

They don't really believe in politics, which is to say they don't really believe in democracy.

and he notes that commisions are used in two basic ways:
Sometimes a problem is referred to a prestigious commission so that the commission can recommend doing things that everybody knows must be done but that nobody has the nerve to propose -- at least nobody who has to run for office.
or
On the other hand, sometimes a problem is referred to a commission simply to get it off the table. Action is widely perceived as necessary, and the creation of a commission can be made to look like action.
It looks like this one might be used for both.

Depressing.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Happy Thanksgiving Indeed

Alright folks, this has less to do with "business" and more to do with "mixed"...but please, spare me the indulgence!!

drum roll, please...

It'll be snowing in Lake Tahoe on Thanksgiving!!

(She looks excited!)

And here's an update about my favorite resort from my favorite newspaper:

Kirkwood has completed the initial phase of its Timber Creek Lodge area renovation. The 30-year-old, two-story day lodge at the base of TC Express has been demolished and replaced with two large, temporary, tent-like structures. A 20,000-square-foot permanent lodge is expected to be completed by fall of 2008. The revamped facility will house ticket and ski-school offices in one tent and a cafeteria/retail shop in the other.

"It's a self-sustained operation that's going to make a great impact for families," said Kirkwood spokesman Allon Cohne. "It will help families get oriented and alleviate some of the traffic from the main hill."

If you love snow sports and haven't ever made it Kirkwood, I highly recommend. The mountain is secluded and geared toward intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders. They do have great green runs, but the bunnies are kept separate from everyone else. AND the vibe there is very friendly so if you are a beginner you will be made a fool if you get in someone's way :)

If only McPeak would stop assigning so much homework...

Monday, November 13, 2006

ECON- following you to the dinner table...

I just found on The Royal Economic Society website an interesting article about how splitting a restaurant bill among a big party at at restaurant can provide insight to negative externalities:

Splitting the bill equally for a restaurant meal leads a group of diners to spend more than they would were each person to pay for their individual order. That is the central finding of experimental research by Professors Uri Gneezy, Ernan Haruvy and Hadas Yafe, published in the April Economic Journal. The study also finds that 80% of diners would prefer paying individually to splitting the bill equally.

These results have important implications for such phenomena as overfishing, deforestation, air and water pollution and arms races – all of which involve ‘negative externalities’, where people can impose some of the costs of their actions on others, leading to undesirable outcomes for society as a whole.

Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

The Greening of Wal-Mart

Today's L.A. Times features an informative, in-depth article on Wal-Mart's greening initiatives:

"Wal-Mart Goes Green"

It goes into detail about specific initiatives, such as those used in their environmentally conscious demonstration store in Aurora, Colorado. The initiatives include getting power from wind turbines and solar panels, growing plants with drip irrigation, and building stores with environmentally conscious building materials — all used to varying degrees of success or failure. While the goal is to prepare a worldwide in-store rollout of these environmental experiments, Wal-Mart still has a ways to go before they can be widely and successfully implemented. Although these initiatives are not perfect, I laud Wal-Mart for making environmental consciousness an important part of their growth process, and hopefully it will spur their competitors to evolve their own programs at least on parity with those of Wal-Mart.

do you want cream with that?

Economist has an interesting editorial Oxfam vs. Starbucks on the latest round in the fair trade coffee debate.
Starbucks also has questions about the different standards of fairness applied by the Fair Trade brand custodians in different parts of the world. It doubts even that the strategy of the Fair Trade movement, to secure farmers a premium over the market price for their beans, is the best basic approach. Starbucks prefers a code known as the CAFE practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity), which aims to help coffee farmers develop sustainable businesses through a mixture of technical support, microfinance loans, and investment in infrastructure and community development where the farmers live.

...As for Oxfam's involvement, it will be interesting to see how this battle of global brand versus global NGO develops. Starbucks has loyal customers who may well be prepared to hear out the firm's side of it and judge the case on its merits. Given the weakness of Oxfam’s arguments, Starbucks may yet emerge with its reputation enhanced, and Oxfam with its credibility damaged. Is it too much to hope that this battle may be a turning point in the war over corporate ethics, and that it will cease to be enough merely for an NGO to throw mud at a company, to have that mud stick? The Economist will drink a grande extra wet triple-latte to that.
The reference to microfinance, reminded me of the New Yorker article, "Millions for Millions" on the debate between Pierre Omidyar's(for profit) vs. Muhammad Yunus', nobel laureate and godfather of microfinance (non-profit) approach to lending.
Omidyar and his colleagues say that the biggest obstacle to commercialization of the sector is philanthropic capital. They say that it distorts the market—not only by filling channels that might otherwise draw commercial investors but also by keeping unsustainable programs alive.


Not so niiiiiice

I am suprised this didn't happen sooner. It turns out a number of people have thought to sue, but no one thought to sock Sasha in the mush, until now.
BORAT star Sacha Baron Cohen was beaten up by a passer-by after he tried to play a prank as his alter ego.

He approached the man and said: “I like your clothings. Are nice! Please may I buying? I want have sex with it.”

But the bystander didn’t see the joke. He took one look at Cohen and punched him in the face.

The funnyman — known for his Borat catchphrase “Jagshemash!” — yelled for help but was slugged again and again.

More good good... err bad news here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Branding 2.0: Another Level of Branding

As if dressing like a Mac weren't enough ("Dress Like A Mac"), the latest convergence of technology-branding and real life is happening in Apple's retail stores, specifically its SoHo store:

SoHo Apple Store"Sex and the Apple Store"

The store has become so hip that young, creatively-minded singles are apparently, ahem, hooking up after meeting there! This seems like an interesting paradigm for the future of corporate branding in the world of technology, and a social phenomenon heretofore not previously observed in that industry. While the article attributes some of the store's allure to the cachet built up by "Sex and the City"'s Mac-toting SoHo resident Carrie Bradshaw, the people who congregate there — young, hip, upwardly mobile, bright and self-motivated individuals — are attracted to the store's welcoming, art museum-like ambience and coffee-shop-like layout. In fact, the store has subtly become an offline extension of the online dating experience — yet still removed from traditional dating by its close relationship to the very product — the computer — that enables online dating.

Now that digital media is beginning to coalesce around lifestyle hubs such as integrated home media centers, I wonder whether other technology companies will pick up on the opportunity to actually build the shopping experience itself into the brand in order to powerfully influence even the people we meet and hook up with.

Postmodernism at its finest!



The museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills just opened an exhibit featuring original art inspired by the Family Guy. The works include media ranging from oil to collage, and although the art snob in me would normally turn my nose up at something like this, I love the fact that the fine arts can still provide relevant commentary in a society that is now dominated primarily by blogging and all things online. Plus there is something weirdly poetic about a doggie sitting alone at a bar with a martini!


The exhibit opened November 9th and will be up until January 21st, 2007. You can read the legit specs on the show here.

Lowbrow pop art for the win!

4000 new jobs for Texans n cooler pick up trucks .

Toyota's opens a new truck plant making trucks for Texans in San Antonio ...so as Friedman says the world is flat and getting flatter. This apparently will create about 4,000 new jobs and invite more investment in San Antonio. Toyota's very aggressive move is a good marketing strategy hitting the already struggling Detroit automakers.
Links to the article at japantoday.com

Additionally Toyota just bought 100 million shares of Isuzu from Mitsubishi and Itochu to work on new diesel engines powered by biofuel hoping to make it commercially viable in 3 years. Investing in environmental policies that make good business sense in the long run
Article here at freep.com.

Cell phones are even cooler than you thought!


This is a cool idea indeed, but what ever happened to making a better camera-phone? On to the next project so soon?


following excerpt from sfgate.com

Putting YouTube clips on cell phones could help accelerate a service that so far has not gained widespread popularity, experts said. And it makes sense, because YouTube clips on average last only a few minutes. "That's something within the attention span of typical cell phone users," Leigh said.

But it also faces critical hurdles: It competes against the iPod and other portable media devices that allow consumers to download high-quality television shows and movies. Cell phone users may also not want to pay for the service, and users have complained that the quality so far isn't very good.

"It's choppy and small and the sound is horrible," said James McQuivey, a professor at Boston University who has studied consumer adoption of mobile television. But at the same time, he said, "YouTube is attractive to a young audience who are willing to sacrifice a high-end experience for something that's cool."



Saturday, November 11, 2006

Scion production on the rise? Not if Toyota has a say




Here's an interesting business strategy. Toyota is on course to break it's previous sales records for its new and innovative brand Scion. However, Toyota doesn't want to make the "underground" scion brand too popular, so it's going to scale back production.

The brand is on track to beat its 150,000-car-a-year sales goal by 25,000 vehicles in 2006. That is a big reason why Toyota has surpassed DaimlerChrysler AG this year to become the No. 3 auto maker in the U.S. in sales.

But instead of riding that momentum to increase sales still further, Scion plans to throttle back production to keep sales from going above 150,000 vehicles next year. It is part of marketing strategy to keep the brand special and, above all, cool.

So is this a way to keep the brand "cool" as the article says, or is this a way to ensure price escalation and profit maximization for Toyota?

I think that Toyota is shooting themselves in the foot. Prices are going to be pushed in an upward direction due to this intentional shortage. Higher prices will more quickly alienate the target audience (Gen Y) of scion than will a few extra scions on the road.

Consequently, Toyota is finding itself in a lose-lose situation. Either follow the market and raise prices or produce more scion. Perhaps it feels that limiting production will be the best way to maintain brand integrity. Or, maybe, under the label of 'exclusivity' is a way for Toyota to maximize profits. Either way, Scion is not going to be the same brand since it's inception. Scion was built on uniqueness, individualism, and most importantly, low prices. How can it stay the same Gen Y friendly brand in mass production or with higher prices?

It will be interesting to see if this strategy pays-off for Toyota. I, of course, think this strategy will pay dividends to the share-holders leaving the intended consumers out to dry.

Here's the article that I read that influenced this blog. As you'll notice, the Wall Street Journal does not believe in free flow of information and consequently you'll see only a portion of the article -- most of which I already posted. If you have access to the WSJ, I would recommend reading the entire article. Otherwise, sorry, you're stuck with my analysis.

(full disclosure: I own a scion and am happy about the potential of limited depreciation on my car. However, I still think that the strategy is not in consumer's best interest.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

this will not be good for study habits


two words: coo-ool

Line Rider

watch it in action

The Scoop

Alright Gang... Here's the scoop.
I came across some cool activities you may want to check out to air out your brain.

Friday
Austin's very own Sound Team is playing at Avalon, 8pm. Listen.
Kid Koala, the back-flippin'ist Turntablist, is suiting up over at The Echo, 9pm.
The Wrens at The Troubadour, 10pm. Listen.

Then...
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is hosting Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images. The exhibition explores the impact of Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte's work on the post-war generation.



FYI: the pic above is not a pipe.

And Then...
11/16, Robert Redford is making an apperance at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' screening of All The President's Men.

What Newspaper You Read, Says A Lot About Who You Are

Came across this post over at misscellania.com via neatorama.com.
Couldn't help but chuckle.

From
misscellania.com:

Guide to US Newspapers
(or what the newspaper you read says about you).

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The Washington Post is read by people who think they should run the country.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the Washington Post. They do, however like the smog statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn't have to leave L.A. to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country, and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority, feministic atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are democrats.

10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

KW from New York adds:
8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated and believe the country would be much better off if run by the Yankees.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The "Multitouch Reel"

Following up on my touchscreen iPod post from last week, this video demonstration of revolutionary touchscreen technology literally pushes the touchscreen paradigm far into the future:



Mutitouch Interaction Research webpage

The purpose of this technology is for the user to interact with the interface using more than one finger or contact at a time, much like a pianist plays many tones at once using his hands. The user can manipulate objects in three dimensions, treating the digital space like a wall or tabletop, and even rearrange objects according to "force" or "touch" sensitivity. Significantly, the multitouch paradigm allows for multiple inputs by more than one user at the same time.

Get Your IT On

Sun Microsystems is working on the world's first virtualized datacenter, Project Blackbox.

Project Blackbox is a prototype of the world's first virtualized datacenter built into a standard 20' shipping container. The design is supposed to be "one-hundredth of the initial cost", "one-fifth the cost per square foot", "twenty percent (20%) more efficient" and "requires one-third the space of a conventional with equivalent computing power". Built into a standard shipping container, the Blackbox is easily shipped, delivered and stored wherever it is needed. Upon delivery, you only need to hookup cool water, hot water, AC power and a network connection to begin using it (check out the video to see). Even more, the Blackbox "could handle up to 10,000 simultaneous desktop users".

So what does this mean (from the site):
  • A large Web 2.0 company struggling to keep pace with growth could rapidly build a datacenter and place it next to an inexpensive, green energy source.
  • A New York firm could place a container in a New Jersey warehouse, on a rooftop, or in a parking garage where space is abundant or less expensive. This would allow a company to increase datacenter capacity without having to undertake the cost and complexity of building a new class-A facility.
  • Global relief organizations could leverage Project Blackbox's easy management and support for up to 10,000 simultaneous desktop users - without administrators - to bring computing to remote villages and quickly mobilize IT systems to support relief efforts.
  • Governments worldwide could move data and applications close to field operations and away from terrorists or disasters quickly and confidently by taking advantage of Project Blackbox's powerful, ruggedized design.
  • An oil company could bring high-performance computing to offshore oil rigs for on-site seismic modeling in the ocean or onto supertankers to simulate fluid load.



This connects us back to the earlier post "We're All Petafiles Now".
"Maybe we can't throw out all of the old rules. Geography might matter after all; natural resources sure do. The New Yorker has a great article on the desperate need for water in the developing world – India in particular is crippled by its inability to solve this basic need, despite its brilliance in software development. Sadly, they don’t have it online, but here is a link to an interview with the author."
Project Blackbox seems to address the difficulties of the petascale era. The Blackboxes will provide some flexibility to companies and enable them to move datacenters to locations that enable them to take advantage of lower energy rates or greener energy. "Customers who select a configuration with the Sun Fire CoolThreads technology-based servers will save about $1,000 a year per Sun Fire T2000 or Sun Fire T1000 server in energy costs, in addition to cost savings provided by the container's cooling advantage over existing datacenter implementations."

And one last tid-bit...

Hear Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and President, Sun Microsystems talk about Moore's Law, Web 2.0 and future of the marketplace. Very interesting. Listen here.

George Costanza's 2nd Favorite Desk

George Costanza + Video iPod =



Desk Project
Installation view from Saki Satom
Gasworks Gallery, London, 2005

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tips on Buying Interview Suits

Thanks to Kaushik for posting this article on the Pepperdine MBA Yahoo! group:

Tips on Buying Interview Suits

It lists tips on buying suits, how to wear the suit, etc., in order to make the maximum impression during your job interview. Also lists tips for women's skirts.