Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ponzi Scheme

Thanks to Bernie Madoff, the word of the week is Ponzi scheme.

From the SEC website:

Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s. Ponzi thought he could take advantage of differences between U.S. and foreign currencies used to buy and sell international mail coupons. Ponzi told investors that he could provide a 40% return in just 90 days compared with 5% for bank savings accounts. Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors, taking in $1 million during one three-hour period—and this was 1921! Though a few early investors were paid off to make the scheme look legitimate, an investigation found that Ponzi had only purchased about $30 worth of the international mail coupons.
Read more about Charles and the original scam in wikipedia's Ponzi scheme article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Shopping 08; A Procrastinating Post

My annual nightmare is now in full swing. I kicked off my holiday shopping today and as usual my stomach is in knots. You see I am inflicted with a very severe case of Christmas shopping stress disorder. It is a very serious and I'm convinced it is a potentially fatal condition.

A dailymail article recently said:

Christmas shopping increased blood pressure to dangerous levels in 50 per cent of shoppers. This can lead to hypertension, which can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney problems.
Ah ha. Those knots in my stomach must be my kidneys exploding. I should have known.

I called the family members to beg for gift ideas and of course no one had any. I have no right to complain though since I couldn't offer ideas myself. At least nowadays we can suffer in the comfort of our own home through the magic of the world wide web.

Unfortunately it is very easy to get distracted this way. What do you think this post is really about?

Well I have good news Vossellers. While shopping for you I came across several practical and affordable ideas for me. So without further ado I present my official Christmas 08 wish list:
Can't wait!

Ok, now please send me your list.

Owe. My kidneys. Owe.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Mapple Store

Simpsons parody of Apple:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Meteor Video



NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site linked to this video which was "captured by a dashboard camera of a police cruiser in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada" and shows what is presumably a desk-sized meteor from deep space".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

24 Returns Tonight


Set the DVR's.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Marketing Google Docs



Over the last year or so I've become increasingly interested in and aware of marketing. It is a topic engineers don't typically learn in school but is essential to successful businesses. I need to learn way more about it if I'm ever to start that company I've been dreaming about for far too long.

Many people still don't know that Google has an online office suite of products which offers near equivalents to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. How do you market a product as exciting as the spreadsheet? I think Google did a good job here.

They made a "cool" short video around the product but it feels like entertainment rather than a commercial. They sprinkle in the key features (document sharing, integrated chat) and the URL around the entertainment. No one is really going to use their spreadsheet as a paint program but people will pass the video around (like me now) and some will decide to give Google docs a try. Well done.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Most Expensive Stock in the U.S.

Was reading an article today about a certain company's stock price and thought it had to be a misprint.

Do you know what the most expensive stock in the U.S. is?

As of today November 14th, 2008, one Class A share of Warren Buffet's company Berkshire Hathaway will set you back $101,000! And that is a bargain price considering it is down from its 52 week high of $151,650.

See the current list of most expensive stocks here.

Monkey Skills

I don't think this monkey is using BCI.



Stop sending me this cr@p Bill.

Brain Computer Interface (BCI)

A few weeks ago I caught an amazing story on 60 minutes. It covered technology that allows computers to be controlled by brainwaves. Just one application will be for amputees to control bionic limbs.

Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) work by wearing a cap with electrodes or by implanting electrodes directly into the brain.

Here is a video clip of a monkey with implanted electrodes controlling a robotic arm:




If you haven't seen it go watch the full 60 minutes piece here (12 minutes long):

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Android Root Shell Bug

Quite a bug was found on Google's G1 phone this week.

Here is the back story that led to its discovery:

I was in the middle of a text conversation with my girl when she asked why I hadn’t responded. I had just rebooted my phone and the first thing I typed was a response to her text which simply stated “Reboot” - which, to my surprise, rebooted my phone.
It turns out that all text input was (is?) being read as input and executed as commands in a background shell running as root!

wow.

It was likely just configured this was for debugging purposes and someone forgot to undo it in the release build.

If Google can screw up like this so can you and I. A nice reminder to be paranoid with our releases.

Alternative to Election Recounts

From this article:

A coin toss has determined the winner of the mayor's race in the tiny northwestern Minnesota town of Goodridge.

Incumbent Bob Homme and former Mayor Dave Brown each got 22 votes. Instead of finding the ballots and recounting the 44 votes, they agreed to decide the winner with a coin toss.

Myself? I would have gone with a roshambo best of three.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Watch the NFL on Your Phone

Sprint just inked a deal to broadcast NFL football games to their phones.

For the first time Thursday, a National Football League game -- the Cleveland Browns vs. the Denver Broncos -- will be broadcast on Sprint mobile phones as part of the wireless company's exclusive partnership with the league. That partnership deal is valued at about $500 million over five years

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sick play

My friend Paul shared this video clip from a high school football game.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The End of Dog Racing

The vote is in on question #3.

The Massachusetts people have spoken.

This is the end of dog racing:

Bonus Ballot Question - The Commonwealth Jury

I got a surprise this morning when I arrived at the polls to discover that my precinct had an awesome ballot question I didn't know about. It read:

Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of amending the state Constitution to replace the state Legislature with 100 randomly selected adult residents of the Commonwealth, each serving a one-year term, to be called the Commonwealth Jury and to have all the legislative and other powers of the current Legislature?
This of course is reminiscent of the famous William F. Buckley, Jr quote:
I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University.
Unfortunately the result of this ballot question is non-binding.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Vote in Election 2008

After much thought and careful consideration I feel it is my duty to share with you my decision on this important and historic vote. In keeping with my strong belief that a small and limited government is best I can not in good conscience cast a vote for increased legislation that would ban the harmless and entertaining family sport that is dog racing. No one after all seems to have a problem with people racing! So what gives? If you are in Massachusetts I urge you to vote No on Question #3!

Just kidding.

Hope your candidate wins. Unless of course you are voting for the other guy. Cheers.

Election Day!

The long campaign finally comes to conclusion tomorrow. I have to admit a bit of jealousy toward those living in swing states or states that offer proportional electoral allotment. One can't help but feel his vote is cheapened a bit when the outcome of the election in his state is all but guaranteed.

However I do get to look forward to the ballot questions! This year in Massachusetts we have three of them:

  • Elimination of the state income tax
  • Decriminalization of marijuana
  • Ban on greyhound racing

Well, actually .... we have already voted to reduce the state income tax (in a prior ballot question) but the state simply ignored that vote. Also the state can't really decriminalize marijuana because of existing and superseding federal laws.

So I guess the only real impact I could have tomorrow is in regards to dog racing!

I have a lot of thinking to do.

Happy voting.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Did You Know?

Check out this great presentation titled Did You Know?

It was made to stimulate discussion on how to rethink education in the face of the flattening world caused by technology and globalization.

A discussion forum was setup here by the authors.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ten Web Clips That Shaped The Election

Check out this video montage that Alley Insider put together for a post called The Ten Web Clips That Shaped The Election.

The real winner of the 2008 presidential election? Web video. According to metrics from TubeMogul, ViralVideoChart, YouTube and the New York Times the following ten campaign-related videos have been viewed 71 million times.

Silver Surfer Gets Busted with a DUI



Halloween night the Silver Surfer got busted in Las Vegas for a DUI. Local news channel 13 has video of it.

No sign of Batman or Superman just yet...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google Earth for the iPhone

Google has ported Google Earth to the iPhone.

This demonstrates the significant advantage iPhone and Windows Mobile have over other mobile operating systems like Blackberry and Android. Since the iPhone and WinMobile are so closely related to their desktop counterparts porting existing applications to their mobile platform will be orders of magnitude easier than developing them from scratch using say Java.

For this reason I continue to believe Windows Mobile is poised for significant growth IF they can get the UI revamped and marketing right. This also assumes that there are many other desktop applications worth porting to the mobile.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Presentation on Startups

Check out this really good presentation by Saul Klein of indexventures.com on startups in the current financial environment.

Thoughts on European Start Ups
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: startups vc)

Dialing Words and Using Directory Asistance on Blackberry QWERTY Keyboards


One problem I occasionally run into with my Blackberry is how to "dial" words or use directory assistance with its keypad.

Let's say you are having trouble sleeping and need to call 1-800-MATTRES. You know to leave off the last S for saving but on a Blackberry it is not obvious what phone number is associated with the word "MATTRES".

The Blackberry keys are laid out in QWERTY format and does not show the standard "phone number key to letter" mappings where for example 2 is A, B, or C and 8 is T, U, or V. Simply spelling the words with the letter keys will not work.

The same issue arises when doing name look-ups in a phone directory assistance system. These depend on the tone of the number keys being pressed and it is assumed that the user can easily convert the letters to numbers as they are printed on all standard phone key pads.

Turns out there is a very easy solution for this on Blackberry. Simply hold down the ALT key and type the letter key you want. It will convert the letter press into the desired number press.

Whitey Bulger's Garage Becoming a Church

The infamous Somerville, MA garage that was headquarters to Whitey Bulger and the Winter Hill Gang is apparently set to become a church.

I walked past the deserted building this morning and saw a banner across the top reading "Coming Soon New Testament Church of God".

Sent via Mobile Device


Friday, October 24, 2008

N85 Launches in Germany with Zeemote JS1



This morning the N85 launched in Germany and includes a Zeemote JS1 in the box! Buy one today.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SNL Palin Rap Skit

A few days late to this one but the SNL Palin rap skit last week was really good:

The Old Light Bulb Trick

Nicholas Johnson describes an old '70s con during a discussion called "The psychology of conmen":

Sure. My all-time favourite one only makes the con artist a few dollars every time he does it, but I absolutely love it. These guys used to go door-to-door in the 1970s selling lightbulbs and they would offer to replace every single lightbulb in your house, so all your old lightbulbs would be replaced with a brand new lightbulb, and it would cost you, say $5, so a fraction of the cost of what new lightbulbs would cost. So the man comes in, he replaces each lightbulb, every single one in the house, and does it, you can check, and they all work, and then he takes all the lightbulbs that he's just taken from the person's house, goes next door and then sells them the same lightbulbs again. So it's really just moving lightbulbs from one house to another and charging people a fee to do it.

Carl Icahn & United Shareholders of America

"Activist investor" Carl Icahn had a terrific post on Tuesday criticizing the limitations Treasury Secretary Paulson has put on institutions accepting bail out money and on the executives that ran / run those companies.

Icahn believes that shareholders should have the "immediate right to call a special shareholders meeting to elect new board members".

He is calling for people to join his "United Shareholders of America" campaign "for improved corporate governance"

Bravo.

Terrifying Movie Returns; Continues to Haunt Me

When I was about 3 years old my parents treated the kids to a movie at a drive in theater but it was really just intended for my older brother and sister. It was a late movie and my younger sister and I were expected to fall asleep in the back of our vega station wagon well before it began.

There was no way I was going to miss a drive in movie though. So I faked being asleep and a few minutes into it I peeked over the seats and was absolutely terrified by what I saw!

Now they are releasing a remake of that movie and I think I'm still a bit scared. Here is the trailer.

Comcast DOCSIS 3.0 in Boston!

Comcast just announced the launch of a new high speed internet service called DOCSIS 3.0 and it is available in certain parts of metro Boston now.

Offering downloads speeds of up to 50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, we finally have a competitor to Verizon FIOS. And by we I really mean you because neither service is available at my place yet.

See if it is available in your area here.

P.S. DOCSIS = Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. And I can only assume 3.0 is much better than 1.0 or 2.o.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The A-11 Offense

The Freakonomics blog wrote an article about an interesting football offense strategy which attempts to use total randomness in play calling to confuse the defense:

It’s called the A-11 Offense — all 11 players are eligible to catch the ball — and it works by introducing such unpredictability into where a quarterback will pass the ball that it baffles the defending team and gives the offense a better chance of breaking through.
Maybe that is what we should have been running in High School huh Tom?

Go Back in Google Time

Google recently celebrated its tenth birthday and "in honor of it" the company created a search site that will only search pages as they existed in January of 2001. It even links to old versions of the pages hosted on the Internet Archive.

You get exactly 0 results when searching for 9/11/2001.

Ironically the first hit for September 11th is a Linux Security Week article in which they discuss (lament) "Carnivore" a system implemented by the FBI under the Clinton administration to monitor internet traffic. Privacy advocates were up in arms THEN.

Terrorists Just Need Some Friends

Just read a great article by Bruce Schneier discussing a theory by Max Abrahms on why people become terrorists. Rather than political motivation, Abrahms believes

people turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.
They just need to be part of a community? Guess we should get Al Qaeda members onto Facebook so they can throw turkeys at each other rather than bombs. He goes on to explain:
seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:

Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.

What Does 30 Minutes of Primetime TV Cost?

Barack Obama's campaign has bought 30 minute blocks of primetime TV on CBS and NBC for a "special program" (i.e. a really long campaign commercial) and is to air at 8:00pm on Oct 29.

So what does 30 minutes of primetime network TV cost? Silicon Alley Insider puts the number at around $1.5 million.

S60 Touch & Java

There is a good blog posting on s60.com that discusses developing java applications for S60 touch based devices and backward compatibility issues.

  • All the lcdui widgets will support touch
  • A virtual keypad can optionally be displayed for backwards compatibility. It can be configured through a jad attribute or the control panel.
  • A new TactileFeedback class has been added to Nokia UI API to allows application to register tactile feedback areas to the platform.

Eclipse MTJ Released

For the Java ME developers out there. Last week the Eclipse Foundation announced the first release of the Eclipse Mobile Tools for Java Project (MTJ). It is a plugin to Eclipse IDE for developing Java ME applications. It was based on and now replaces Eclipse ME. Congratulations to Craig Setera and everyone else who contributed to Eclipse ME and now Eclipse MTJ.

Who was the big winner in the last debate?

So who was the big winner of the last debate? Silicon Alley Insider says it was Joe Francis, a plumber from Amarillo, TX who owns the domain JoeThePlumber.com!

Joe tells us he's been flooded by calls ... Among those calling him: Radio stations and people looking to buy his domain name. Joe didn't tell us exactly how much he's been offered, but did say it was in the "hundreds of thousands". And yes, he's willing to part with the name.

Our advice to Joe: Sell! Immediately!

Powell Endorses Obama

Very powerful endorsement for Obama from Gen. Colin Powell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update 3

NBC finally posted the edited SNL bail out skit here:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

John McCain to Bail You Out?

In tonight's debate, John McCain just suggested bailing you out if you can't afford your house:

We're going to have to do something about home values. You know that home values of retirees continue to decline and people are no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. As President of the United States, Allen, I would order the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes (at the diminished value of those homes) and let people be able to make those payments and stay in their homes.
Beginning to think I should have bought that overpriced condo last year.

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update 2

Regarding the SNL bailout skit discussed here and here. The LA Times is reporting that an SNL spokesman has made a statement saying that the skit "didn't meet our standards" but an edited version will be re-posted soon.

For what it is worth at the time of this writing there is a version on YouTube here but I expect it will be pulled soon:

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit - Update


I went looking around again for the SNL bailout skit and found that this has become a hot topic in the blogosphere.

Michelle Malkin has a better theory than I did on why it might have been pulled.

One of the rapacious couples featured in the skit was Herbert and Marion Sandler (portrayed by Darrell Hammond and Casey Wilson). Unlike the other composite figures, the Sandlers are a real-life couple.
The real life couple (with apparently strong political ties) sold their sub-prime mortgage business to Wachovia for $24.2 billion in 2006. In the SNL skit as the couple spoke the caption under their names read "People who should be shot". So the theory goes that perhaps the billionaire couple with strong political ties may have applied a tad bit of pressure on NBC.

Monday, October 6, 2008

NBC Pulls SNL Bailout Skit?


I watched Saturday Night Live live this weekend for the first time in a long time. Of course they opened with a hillarious spoof on the VP debate but later on there was a pretty great skit on the bailout. In C-Span Bailout George Bush, Nancy Polise, and Barney Frank announce the deal and introduce some of the "beficiaries" of it.

I was looking forward to linking to it once available but apparently just a few hours after posting it, NBC pulled it down!

I'm sure the Conservative conspiracy theorists will say it is because the skit made the Democrats look bad (in it Barney Frank tells Nansi Pelosi that this time it was the Democrats fault). I suspect however that it had more to do with the fact that they portrayed the "typical sub-prime mortgage recipients" as criminals and drug addicts.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What's up with the names Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Sallie Mae?

So on a lighter note, have you ever wondered what's up with the names Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Sallie Mae? I looked around and found the answer in a posting by Cynthia E. Brodrick on bankrate.com.

Perhaps like me, you're wondering what's up with these country-cousin-style names. A little explanation is in order. Their given names are the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). You can think of Fannie and Freddie as their easier-to-remember "code names."

Now I can see Fannie Mae coming out of FNMA, but Freddie Mac is a heck of a stretch out of FHLMC. I mean, where'd the H and L go? Freddie's Fitzpatrick explained that while the "MA" turned into Mae, the "MC" made more sense as Mac. Therefore the FHLMC needed a more masculine name to go with Mac. Still no explanation on the missing H and L.

If you borrowed money for college, you may have met Freddie and Fannie's young cousin, Sallie Mae. Also known as the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA), Sallie is the company that buys up education loans. Sallie Mae is different from Freddie and Fannie in that she also administers those loans, meaning hundreds of thousands of college grads write out their checks to Miss Sallie.

By the way, they all have another cousin named Ginnie Mae. She's a true government agent, managing the government's secondary mortgage market. Her name stands for Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA), and her job is to serve lower-income homebuyers. Through Ginnie Mae, the federal government assumes the risk on mortgages that the FHA insures and the VA guarantees.

These simplified names, Freddie and Fannie, are explained in a government "cover story" that claims they're just easier to remember. But personally, I think these organizations "cutesified" their names in hopes that it would make loan holders less intimidated by these financial institutions that own their mortgages.

Glimmer of a Free Market!

Wells Fargo has now offered to buy Wachovia without any government assistance and for about 7 times the value of the deal in which the government and Citigroup made to take it over.

Some excerpts:

Citigroup Inc.'s takeover of Wachovia Corp. was torpedoed on Friday when San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to pay $15.4 billion to buy Wachovia.
Wells Fargo's offer upended the government's hastily arranged effort last weekend to match New York-based Citigroup with Wachovia of Charlotte, N.C. -- a federal effort to prevent the bank from joining the growing ranks of failed financial institutions.
The Wells Fargo offer provides a glimmer of support for the fundamental value of troubled U.S. banks: It signals that there is still a market, albeit limited, for private takeovers of these institutions, one that does not place taxpayer dollars at risk. It is also significant because the new buyer, unlike Citigroup, asks for no government assistance.
So our tax dollars nearly went to Citgroup to help them purchase an asset worth $15 billion dollars for just $2 billion. Would have been a sweet deal for Citigroup, huh. Simply stunning.

Bob Barr on the Bailout

Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for President, put out this press release following yesterday's bailout. Some excerpts:

“The bailout will set back the economy’s recovery. It tosses good money after bad. It also punishes companies that attempt to work through their problems without taxpayer largess. Now only a fool will take tough steps to clean up his firm’s balance sheet," Barr explains.
"Instead, they will put in a call to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to ask for help,” notes Barr. “Moreover, Congress is creating a bailout culture. No matter how foolish or irresponsible a borrower, lender, or investor may be, they can count on the government to bail them out,” observes Barr.
“Congress must say 'no' more. There must be no more special interest bailouts. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be privatized. There must be no more government pressure on banks to increase lending. We need oversight and transparency at the Federal Reserve. Political meddling in the economy must come to an end,” notes Barr.
“Neither the Republicans nor Democrats can be trusted to protect the taxpayers,” warns Barr.

And here is a video he recently made in which he references the now famous 1999 article predicting the crisis which I linked to earlier this week:

Bailed Out

The toxic assets are ours!

The bill passed Wednesday in the Senate 74-25 (15 Republicans, 9 Democrats, and 1 Independent voted against it). It passed Friday in the House 263-171 (108 Republicans and 63 Democrats voted against it). Signed into law on Friday by the President.

Both Presidential candidates voted for it.

From the Times:

After the House reversed course and gave final approval to the $700 billion economic bailout package, President Bush quickly signed it into law on Friday, authorizing the Treasury to undertake what could become the most expensive government intervention in history.
The change in course by the House was prompted by fears of a global economic meltdown, and by old-fashioned political inducements added by the Senate: a portfolio of $150 billion in popular tax provisions, including credits for the production of solar, wind and other renewable energy, and an adjustment to spare middle-class families from paying the alternative minimum tax.
Both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, voted for the measure when the Senate approved it on Wednesday, and both hailed Friday’s outcome.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Credit Crisis Critique

Just read a fantastic editorial by Jeffrey A. Miron, senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University, criticizing the credit bailout proposal. Some excerpts:

The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.

Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.

Talk of Armageddon, however, is ridiculous scare-mongering. If financial institutions cannot make productive loans, a profit opportunity exists for someone else. This might not happen instantly, but it will happen.
Let the failing businesses fail. Successful ones will rise. Keep our markets free.

Bailout Defeated (For Now)

Thank you to the bipartisan (133 Republicans and 95 Democrats) defeat of the bailout plan.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

U.S. Credit Crisis

I've been closely watching the drama over the credit crisis this week and it has been absolutely infuriating.

It seems to me that the major cause of this problem is not getting the attention it so badly needs and deserves. This morning George Will said it well on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

The sainted American people are the problem here. That is they have 105 billion credit cards. That's 9 per card holder. Self reporting they have about $12,000 credit card debt per household. Household debt is 139% of household income. I mean, they can't go on like this. The refusal to defer gratification is a fundamental attribute of childishness.
Over the past decade we have seen millions of people irresponsibly borrowing for homes they can't afford and corporations and government policies irresponsibly enabling them.

Excerpts from a 1999 NY Times article:
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.

Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.
This all led to increased home demand and sky rocketing housing prices which worsened and fed the problem. Now those of us who have been living within our means (and perhaps saving our pennies hoping to purchase one of those overpriced homes) have to "bailout" these lenders and borrowers? This is anti-American socialism and sickening.

My admittedly limited economic knowledge tells me we should let the free market be free. Failing businesses should fail, people should live in homes or apartments they can afford, and the housing price bubble should pop.

I heard one pundit say that we risk "a recession of up to 5 years" if we don't do the bailout. If a 5 year "correction" is needed so be it. I'd rather live through a multi-year economic downturn than take a major step away from free market capitalism.

Treasury Secretary Paulson has seemed to imply things would be worse than that and we risk some sort of economic dooms day without doing the bailout but he hasn't provided a real description of what that means or looks like.

The Presidential candidate who can stop this and the total economic collapse as envisioned by Paulson wins my vote.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Outlook Auto Complete

I use Outlook at work and occasionally I'll get an email from someone's home email account. I will then begin sending mail to them at the home account due to Outlook's auto complete feature and my impatience. Turns out that removing an email address from auto complete cache is very simple. When the list of suggestions is displayed just highlight the address and hit delete.

From Outlook help:

AutoComplete is a feature which displays suggestions for names and e-mail addresses as you begin to type them. These suggestions are possible matches from a list of names and e-mail addresses that you have typed before, known as the AutoComplete name list.

Select the unwanted name or e-mail address by using the UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW key.
Press DELETE.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kickball Tournament in Las Vegas



Off to Vegas! Let's go SSP!

Zeemote JS1 Unboxing




Check out this Zeemote JS1 unboxing post over at pocketgamer.co.uk.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Zeemote Video



Sweet video.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Nokia & Zeemote Invade Germany



symbian-guru.com is just one outlet reporting on the announcement that Zeemote and Nokia are partnering to bring the Zeemote JS1 to Germany. From the article:

Wow, this is stinking *awesome* news! Hot on the heels of Sony Ericsson’s announcement that it would be offering the Zeemote as a bundled deal with its gaming phones, Nokia follows suit with an offer in Germany. Wow, this is stinking *awesome* news! Hot on the heels of Sony Ericsson’s announcement that it would be offering the Zeemote as a bundled deal with its gaming phones, Nokia follows suit with an offer in Germany.
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

USA Today Covers Zeemote JS1 Launch


This is pretty cool. USA Today (The newspaper with the widest circulation in the US) is now reporting on the Zeemote JS1 launch.

Zeemote, the makers of a new Bluetooth-based product called the Zeemote JS1 Controller, announced a partnership with Sony Ericsson to bring a "near-console game” experience to the W760i smartphone -- but only in the Netherlands, to start.
At the time of this writing there is a picture of the JS1 in the top banner of the main tech page (Screen cap above).

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Zeemote JS1 Launch on August 8


Marketwatch is just one of many news outlets reporting on the announcement of the Zeemote JS1 launch in the Netherlands. From their article:

In a world first, Sony Ericsson is to launch the Zeemote(TM) JS1 Controller featuring Bluetooth(TM) technology with an exclusive promotion throughout hundreds of retail outlets across the Netherlands.


Across the Netherlands, from August 8th 2008 to October 31st 2008, the Zeemote(TM) JS1 Controller will be offered free to purchasers of Sony Ericsson's new 3G mobile handset, the W760i Walkman, via a mail-in voucher promotion.
Also Stuart Dredge from Pocket Gamer is reporting on some of the games and game developers / publishers supporting the controller.
The big news there is that EA Mobile is supporting the Zeemote, along with fellow big publishers Gameloft and Glu Mobile, not to mention the various other listed companies.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What The F**K is Social Media?

My friend Geoff sent me this excellent presentation by Marta Kagan on "Social Media" (Think Web 2.0, social networking, You Tube, Twitter, etc...).

It is a must view for anyone interested in technology / marketing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

RELIVANT WORK EXPERIENSE

Job seekers take note: The spell check feature of MS Word is configured to "Ignore words in UPPERCASE" by default.

I can't be too critical though. I'm a terrible speller and when I was applying for my first job out of school I learned the hard way that many email clients don't spell check the Subject line.

Monday, July 21, 2008

VP Selections Coming Soon



Yesterday on Meet The Press Chuck Todd suggested Obama may announce his VP selection within the next two weeks.

MR. TODD: Well, but there, there's a, there's a, there's a real reason why. Look, the timing. I've got it on pretty good authority, this is not going to be done right before the convention, and it's not going to be done during the Olympics. Well, you start backtracking when Obama's going to pick his running mate...

MR. GREGORY: Two weeks.

MR. TODD: Exactly.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah.

Today Bob Novak is writing that McCain may announce as early as this week.
Sources close to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip. The name of McCain's running mate has not been disclosed, but Mitt Romney has led the speculation recently.
So what fun would it be without taking some guesses. So here are mine:
  • Jim Webb for Obama
  • Mitt Romney for McCain

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scoring Against Yourself

My friend Elad recently shared an amazing soccer story with me from Snopes.

It describes the true story of how in 1994 the Barbados soccer team advanced in a cup match by intentionally scoring a goal against itself. Sounds impossible right?

Barbados needed to win the game by two clear goals in order to progress to the next round. Now the trouble was caused by a daft rule in the competition which stated that in the event of a game going to penalty kicks, the winner of the penalty kicks would be awarded a 2-0 victory.

With 5 minutes to go, Barbados were leading 2-1, and going out of the tournament (because they needed to win by 2 clear goals). Then, when they realized they were probably not going to score against Grenada's massed defence, they turned round, and deliberately scored on their own goal to level the scores and take the game into penalties. Grenada, themselves not being stupid, realized what was going on, and then attempted to score an own goal themselves. However, the Barbados players started defending their opponents goal to prevent this.

In the last five minutes, spectators were treated to the incredible sight of both team's defending their opponents goal against attackers desperately trying to score an own goal and goalkeepers trying to throw the ball into their own net. The game went to penalties, which Barbados won and so were awarded a 2-0 victory and progressed to the next round.

More Joel on Software

My friend Steve let me know that Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software) has a new book out. It has the short name of More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and ... Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity (Pro)

Don't think he has mentioned it on his site yet (or I just missed it).

Zeemote JS1 Availability Gets Closer

Stuart Dredge from www.pocketgamer.biz is reporting that the Zeemote JS1 will be available for sale this month.

Zeemote's innovative JS1 Bluetooth controller for mobile games is due on sale in at least one European country this month, according to VP of sales and business development Jim Adams.
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Two Sherlock Holmes Movies Starring Who?

A recent article in variety says that two Sherlock Holmes movies are in the works.

One is a drama, called Sherlock Holmes, and will star Robert Downey Jr. as the lead detective.

The other will be a comedy with Sacha Baron Cohen (A.K.A Borat) as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson. Nothing in IMDB on this one though so who knows.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

7 Deadly Sins of Startups

A blog post by Roger Ehrenberg has been making the rounds on various technology / entrepreneurial / investment sites.

It is a "post mortem" on his failed technology start up and he discusses 7 "deadly sins" he believes led to the company's failure. Well worth a read. Here is his sin list:

While we certainly made more than seven mistakes during the nearly four-year life of Monitor110, I think these top the list.

1. The lack of a single, "the buck stops here" leader until too late in the game
2. No separation between the technology organization and the product organization
3. Too much PR, too early
4. Too much money
5. Not close enough to the customer
6. Slow to adapt to market reality
7. Disagreement on strategy both within the Company and with the Board

Batman Projects That Never Were

Looks like the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, could be headed for the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time.

Canada's The Globe and Mail had an article yesterday discussing the history of the Batman movies and identified a number of projects that were started but never completed.

It is not clear how far along these projects ever got or if the directors / actors named below were ever actually signed to a deal.

Here are four interesting ones that never made it:

  • A 3rd to be directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton returning as Batman and Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent
  • One called "Batman Triumphant" with Bret Hart as Batman and either Howard Stern or Crispin Glover (McFly from Back to the Future) as Scarecrow
  • One called "Batman vs Superman" with Christian Bale as Batman and Josh Hartnett as Superman
  • One called "The Dark Knight Returns" with Clint Eastwood as Batman

MacFarlane Interview, Another Family Guy Movie

Check out this short interview with Seth MacFarlane. He says he hopes to get started on another Family Guy movie this year.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We Are Marshall



I finally watched the movie We Are Marshall this weekend on HBO.

a 2006 motion picture directed by McG about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed all of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team; the rebuilding of the program; and the healing that the community undergoes.

It is the best football movie I've seen in a long time. Check it out if you haven't.

I found an interview with Rick Nolte, the author of the book, in which he describes the parts that were accurate versus those that were dramatic license.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

LG Dare



Engadget Mobile goes hands on with yet another new touchscreen device. This is the LG Dare which is launching on Verizon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wikipedia Scoops NBC on Russert's Death

Tim Russert's wikipedia page was updated to reflect his death 40 minutes before NBC reported it.

Apparently the person who updated the page works (worked?) for a company called Internet Broadcasting Services that partners with NBC.

There is growing controversy over what happened next. When NBC and IBS discovered this someone else from IBS went to wikipedia and removed the references to his death. So here you have one or two professional news companies involved in knowingly modifying a public record to contain incorrect information.

Here is an article from alleyinsider.com that discusses it and also references a NY Times article on it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

LifeLock and Identity Theft

Bruce Schneier has a great post on Lifelock, a company that aims to protect you from identity theft.

I hear LifeLock's radio commercial all the time in which the CEO reads out his own social security number confident that his identity is fully protected.

Bruce's article describes a bit what that company does and some resistence they are facing from the credit card companies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2008 Election Spoiler



2008 Election spoiler video here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cell Phone Evolution Video



Cell Phone Evolution Video

Rewards Program

This week I needed to bring my Ford Escape to the dealership to replace a bad alternator and fix the brakes. The bill was just under $1000. The service representative enrolled me in a brand new "rewards program" from Ford called Owner Advantage.

From the program's website:

All parts and service purchases earn you rewards toward a future service visit.

Almost looking forward to the next time I need work done!

This week I also went to the dentist. I suggested that he too consider a rewards program. 5% cash back on each filling maybe?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yum! Feedbag



Great new product for busy professionals.

World Of World Of Warcraft



The Onion reports on World Of World Of Warcraft.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Meet The Press Remembers Tim Russert

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bug Russ & Me Tops Amazon



No surprises here. Big Russ and Me is currently #1 on Amazon's bestseller list and out of stock.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dead



The emotional reaction we have to someone's death is almost always dependent on how well we knew and cared for the deceased. A "celebrity death" is a bit of an oddity because while many of us will have great sorrow, few will have ever actually met the person.

Part of it is explained because a medium like TV has a way of making us feel like we know those we watch. We may also truly care for the work of the person like the music of a musician, the writing of an author, or the leadership of a politician.

I never met Tim Russert but I've watched him every Sunday for years. I feel like I knew him and I liked him a lot. He did important and exceptional work covering politics for which I care a great deal.

His book Big Russ and Me was a best seller and has been on my todo reading list for a while now. I'll be just one of many who make the purchase this weekend.

He will be missed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The AIDS Threat Misrepresented?

A few years ago I read the book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, by Bernard Goldberg.

In it the author describes how he believes the main stream media distorts the news, consciously and unconsciously often due to a left leaning political bias or in acts of journalistic activism.

The book contained one chapter which I found extremely uncomfortable to read and consider. In Chapter 6, titled "Epidemic of Fear", he argues that the threat of AIDS to non-drug using heterosexuals in the U.S. has been far over stated. He says that this was done to "scare the hell out of straight America" so that "they would have to pay attention" to the problem "Otherwise, the activists feared there would never be a national outcry over AIDS".

It was difficult to read because it went against what I had been taught, "we are all at equal risk", and because those who challenge this are labeled as ignorant or bigoted.

I was reminded of this chapter today when I saw and read an article titled "Threat of world Aids pandemic among heterosexuals is over, report admits"


Some quotes:

In the first official admission that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misdirected, Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO's department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.

Whereas once it was seen as a risk to populations everywhere, it was now recognised that, outside sub-Saharan Africa, it was confined to high-risk groups including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers and their clients.
Critics of the global Aids strategy complain that vast sums are being spent educating people about the disease who are not at risk, when a far bigger impact could be achieved by targeting high-risk groups and focusing on interventions known to work, such as circumcision, which cuts the risk of infection by 60 per cent, and reducing the number of sexual partners.

There were "elements of truth" in the criticism, Dr De Cock said. "You will not do much about Aids in London by spending the funds in schools. You need to go where transmission is occurring"

Friday, June 6, 2008

Anti Obama Ad



Here is why the major parties try to avoid such bitter primary fights.

What's worse is that these speakers all knew that their words could and would be used this way.

Politics is a tough game.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Domain Name Change Done

I finished moving this site from the old .org address to a new .com address.

If you bookmarked this site or use a feedreader please update it to point here:
http://blog.mikevosseller.com

For the time being the old site will forward you here but at some point I'll take it down completely.

Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Kicballer Arrested

A kickballer playing for a team called "Los Piratas Mechanicos" (the Robot Pirates) was arrested in NY for carrying a sword in public on his way to a game.

From the NY Post article:

Bonehead buccaneer Lawrence Jackson, 29, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon after he was spotted with the sword on an up escalator.

Jackson and his girlfriend said he was carrying the sword for fun on the way to a game and that it was nothing more than a prop befitting his team's zany image - but cops said his explanation didn't cut it.
Clearly these cops don't play kickball because this kind of wackinesses is common place in the sport. Lets just be glad Jackson's team went with the Pirates name as opposed to one of their earlier choices:
  • Big Apple Assault Rifles
  • New York City Crossbow
  • Greenwich Grenades
Jackson was also in possession of a Super Soaker water gun and, um, some marijuana.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Internet Operating System

Tim O'Reilly wrote a great piece on Google, Microsoft, and the Internet Operating System being built.

From the article:

I believe that we're collectively working on an Internet Operating System, and that it will ultimately look more like Unix than it looks like Windows. That is, it will be an aggregate of best of breed tools produced by an army of independent actors, all playing by the same rules so that those tools work together to produce a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Domain Address

This site is in the process of moving to a brand new domain.

The new address is / will be hosted here:
http://blog.mikevosseller.com

From Russia with Hate

A friend of mine sent me this excellent 20 minute video report on the growing immigration and racism problem in Russia.

WARNING: Contains graphic violence

Insane Walk

Check out this hike:

Delicious Accident


The most delicious accident in some time.

Police say a trailer loaded with 14 tons of double-stuffed Oreos has overturned, spilling the cookies still in their plastic sleeves into the median and roadway.

BestFriendsAgain.com?

http://www.bestfriendsagain.com claims to be offering a pet cloning service.

From the site:

The Best Friends Again program, sponsored by BioArts International, is a limited commercial dog cloning program. BioArts is the only entity in the world with both the know-how and the legal right to practice commercial dog and cat cloning. We are auctioning off 5 dog cloning service slots to the general public. We may or may not perform any additional commercial dog cloning services after this auction.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tour the Blockbuster Living Museum

Monday, May 12, 2008

Death in the Digital Age

Ever wonder what will happen to your "online assets" when you die? What will happen to your email, myspace, blog, and financial accounts when your time is up? What do you want to happen to them? This may be a morbid thought but I think it's worth some consideration.


Email

Today we communicate with more people than ever using email. Will every single person with whom you email be notified of your untimely passing? Probably not. So what happens when one of them writes you?

  • Should your account be closed so the writer gets a mail delivery error?
  • Should your account be given to a loved one so that messages can be appropriately responded to?
  • Perhaps an automated reply would work? "Thanks for writing but I'm dead now".

Myspace/Facebook/Spacebook/MyFace

Millions of people today belong to a social networking site. These sites contain a vast amount of personal information like videos, images, a personal profile and a long history of messages between you and your friends.

The site may describe you better than anything else in this world. It therefore may be the best way to memorialize you. So what should happen to it when you go?
  • Should the account be closed?
  • Should the account be made private so only current friends can view it?
  • Should the account be made public so anyone can view it?
  • Should the account be given to a loved one to maintain and possibly accept new friends on your behalf?
Who do you want to have access to it? Do you want your parents to have access? Do they have access now? How about your kids? How about your future grandkids? Or great grandkids?

Do you really want to share all those pictures? Is it selfish not to share them?

If myspace was around 100 years ago and your grandparent was on it would you want to browse their page?


Financial Accounts

I recently signed up for an ING Direct savings account. ING Direct is an online-only bank and I don't receive any paper statements. I didn't mentioned the account to anyone and it occurred to me that if I died no one would know it existed!

What accounts do you have? Will your family know the about them when you go? Will they know how to access them?


The End

It turns out that many people and businesses are thinking about and dealing with these issues. Google's mail service for example allows one to gain access to a deceased user's email account with a death certificate and power of attorney.

A company called assetlock.net provides a service the lets you organize and upload all of your information for your family to access after your passing.

Something we should now be considering when preparing for the end.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We Now Know



"We now know who the Democratic nominee is gonna be and no one is going to dispute it" - Tim Russert.

Some knew months ago.

In fairness for weeks each episode of Meet the Press has started with Russert displaying the vote totals and essentially asking "How can Hillary possibly win?"

Now the question will become "How can Barack possibly win (in November)".

A lot of people think he can't.

I'm not one of them.

But it will definitely be an up hill battle for a lot of reasons among which Reverand Wright is just one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Eclipse Photo



This is from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day from yesterday.

The Sun, the Moon, Antarctica, and two photographers all lined up in 2003 Antarctica during an unusual total eclipse of the Sun.

Tough luck

Sent via Mobile Device

Thursday, May 1, 2008

100th Post

Well, the title says it. This is my 100th post!

When I set this site up last year I really didn't know how or how much I would actually use it. I definitely didn't expect I'd ever get to 100 posts. I also never would have expected that I would get visitors from over 60 countries in the world including places like Iceland, Latvia, Slovenia, and Liechtenstein!

It has turned out to be a really fun hobby and I will probably continue for quite some time.

Letters to Billy



Several years ago a man launched a letter-writing campaign to some of the world's most famous (and infamous) figures posing as a 10-year-old boy named Billy.

Amazingly he received many replies back from people including Dick Cheney, Charles Manson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Larry Flynt.

Radar Magazine has published several of the letters.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Top Brands in the World

www.brandz.com released its annual report on the top brands in the world and their estimated value.

Here is the top 10 list in reverse order:

#10 - Marlboro - $37 Billion
#9 - Nokia - $43 Billion
#8 - McDonald’s $49 Billion
#7 - Apple - $55 Billion
#6 - IBM - $55 Billion
#5 - China Mobile - $57 Billion
#4 - Coca-Cola - $58 Billion
#3 - Microsoft - $70 Billion
#2 - GE (General Electric) - $71 Billion
#1 - Google - $86 Billion

They also list the change in value from last year. Marlboro was the only one in the top ten whose value decreased (by 5%) from last year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Look Into My Eyes



Yup, as the title suggests the image you are seeing is that of my eye! In particular it is the retina of my left eye. To remind you, the retina is the back part of the eye which sits behind and is seen through the pupil. That yellow dot slightly off center is my macula.



I had my yearly eye exam last week. When I walked in the optometrist gave me a pamphlet describing a new machine / service called the optomap® Retinal Exam. It uses a laser to scan the eye and take pictures of the retina without the need for the eye drops. It costs about $30 and is not covered by insurance. I said I would do it under one condition: I need copies of the images!

So there you have it. Luckily it appears that my eyes are healthy. My doctor spent time showing me images of several abnormal ones. Below for example is what glaucoma looks like.



I got this from the website of the machine's manufacturer which includes a disease library that shows what several conditions look like.

According to the website it is also possible to get an amazing 3D views of your eye but unfortunately my doctor didn't show me mine. Here is one I found on the website:



Now I have something to ask for next year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

21 & Bringing Down The House



I saw the movie 21 on Sunday. This of course is the Blackjack movie based on the best seller Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich.

Based on a true story it describes how several MIT students used a system to count cards and win millions in Las Vegas. Like every other book-turned-movie the book was much much better. It is quite an amazing read.

On a positive note the movie did introduce me to an interesting probability problem I never heard.

Since the movie was announced I wondered why they named it 21 instead of Bringing Down the House. How could I have forgotten this gem:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Game Show Host Problem

You are on a game show and there are three closed doors.

Behind one of them is the grand prize and nothing behind the others.

You choose door #1 so the host opens door #3 knowing it is empty.

The host then asks you if you would like to change your selection.

Should you?

Answer below.



If you change your choice to door #2 your odds of winning will actually increase from 1/3 to 2/3!

Confused? Yea, I was too.

A good way to understand how this is possible is to increase the total number of doors in the problem to one million.

Pick a door from the million? Do you like your odds?

The game show host then opens all losing doors leaving only yours and one other.

Do you want to change your choice now?

Put another way, you are very likely to pick the wrong door the first time (2/3) and then the game show host does you a favor by revealing the other losing door.

Thank you to the theproblemsite.com for explaining this to me!