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Archived Posts for May 2010

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
25
May 10
Tue

  stuloh Took Mum to CostCo... kid in a candy store I tell ya!

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24
May 10
Mon
21
May 10
Fri

Daily news rundown

  • FTC approves AdMob deal – Google will go on to acquire it – iAd, seen as a competitor, helped
  • Financial regulatory bill getting closer to being signed – the House and Senate are going to meld their versions of the bill – Senate bill has the Volcker Rule (prop trading restrictions for banks) and derivatives trading restrictions – needs to pass the conference committee before getting voted on by Congress
  • Government moving to IPO of its stake in GM – Lazard hired to advise
  • AT&T ups cell contract ETF to $325 – apparently in preparation for June iPhone launch and the rumored loss of exclusivity in several months
  • Twitter contesting subpoena demanding real names of users – subpoena from PA’s attorney-general is being attacked by ACLU and other groups (I’m very interested to see how this plays out in the media). Link
  • Google unveils Android 2.2 (Froyo) at Google I/O – quicker than an iPad – Google really is all about speed
  • Google announced Google TV – competing with Apple TV – platform that integrates web browsing, cable TV and Android – primed for Fall 2010 launch. Link
  • Google also developing iTunes competitor – AAPL vs GOOG. It’s so on.
  • Zynga acquires XPD Media, opens Beijing office
  • Germans ban naked short selling
  • Blackstone is setting up in Australia – Link
  • Thai stock exchange closed – parts of it were on fire as the violence in Bangkok continues
  11:08pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
20
May 10
Thu

  stuloh Hah! Cop just busted a guy in an SUV who blew right past me while I was in the middle of a zebra crossing.

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18
May 10
Tue

Daily news rundown

  • Symantec close to buying VeriSign’s authentication services business for $1.3b
  • Zynga and Facebook announce 5 year deal – looks like the relationship has been salvaged (although it probably wasn’t genuinely in jeopardy to begin with). Link
  • Google buying Oslo-listed Global IP Solutions for $68m – to "build its real-time audio and video Internet capabilities"
  • Microsoft suing Salesforce for patent infringement – 9 of them
  9:12pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
17
May 10
Mon

  stuloh Raining again???

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Daily news rundown

  • Waddell & Reed not the cause of the May 6 temporary crash? – back to the investigation drawing board. Link
  • Standard Chartered gives employees a choice between BlackBerries and iPhones – big corporate-culture-shift win for Apple
  • Mallesons/Clifford Chance merger rumors cropping up again – fourth time lucky? Link
  • Apple now sells more mobile handsets than Motorola – with 8.75m iPhones shipped in Q1 versus Moto’s 8.5m – Apple now has 3% of global mobile phone market – that is nothing short of extraordinary (remember that Apple only sells one model… "you can have it in any color as long as it’s black"). Link – Nokia of course leads with 37%, but at least one analyst believes that Symbian’s days are numbered
  • Taiwanese manufacturers reckon 4.5m iPhone 4Gs to be sold in 24 days – according to rumor (I’ll be one of them… my 3G is on its last legs). Link
  • Engineer Alex Payne leaves Twitter to found BankSimple – an appealing idea – sounds like they will be eschewing some exception fees (but I think it’s gonna be very tough to pull off). Link
  • Booyah raises $20m – from Accel Partners – funded in an earlier round by Kleiner Perkins
  • Gilt Groupe raises $35m – from General Atlantic and Matrix – they’ve been in the news a lot recently
  • Groupon acquires German startup Citydeal – sounds like a very smart move and a good way to get into Europe – this is Groupon’s second acquisition after Mob.ly
  • Prominent names revealed as investors in Canvas, Moot’s startup – this is Moot of 4chan fame – investors include Conway, Andreessen, Josh Schachter (del.icio.us), Chris Dixon (Hunch) and Kenneth Lerer (Huffpost)
  • (Yes, too much Apple news.)
  8:00pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
15
May 10
Sat

Charlie Munger on Elementary Worldly Wisdom

A lengthy speech that Charlie Munger gave in 1994 was meant to be about stock picking, but approached it from the perspective of the general knowledge and mindset that surrounds the art. It’s very long, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it that time has not dulled.

And Warren and I don’t feel like we have any great advantage in the high-tech sector. In fact, we feel like we’re at a big disadvantage in trying to understand the nature of technical developments in software, computer chips or what have you. So we tend to avoid that stuff, based on our personal inadequacies.

Again, that is a very, very powerful idea. Every person is going to have a circle of competence. And it’s going to be very hard to advance that circle. If I had to make my living as a musician…. I can’t even think of a level low enough to describe where I would be sorted out to if music were the measuring standard of the civilization.

So you have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don’t, you’re going to lose. And that’s as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out where you’ve got an edge. And you’ve got to play within your own circle of competence. …

Some of you may find opportunities “surfing” along in the new high-tech fields—the Intels, the Microsofts and so on. The fact that we don’t think we’re very good at it and have pretty well stayed out of it doesn’t mean that it’s irrational for you to do it.

And this is another interesting passage:

When Warren lectures at business schools, he says, “I could improve your ultimate financial welfare by giving you a ticket with only 20 slots in it so that you had 20 punches—representing all the investments that you got to make in a lifetime. And once you’d punched through the card, you couldn’t make any more investments at all.”

He says, “Under those rules, you’d really think carefully about what you did and you’d be forced to load up on what you’d really thought about. So you’d do so much better.”

Again, this is a concept that seems perfectly obvious to me. And to Warren it seems perfectly obvious. But this is one of the very few business classes in the U.S. where anybody will be saying so. It just isn’t the conventional wisdom.

To me, it’s obvious that the winner has to bet very selectively. It’s been obvious to me since very early in life. I don’t know why it’s not obvious to very many other people

  9:47pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

The art of the State dinner

Vanity Fair has a fascinating article about the role that State dinners play, all the protocol and diplomacy that underlies them, and how each President brings their own style to these dinner party-of-dinner parties.

Like most presidential couples, both Nixons reviewed the seating plan for state dinners once the social secretary had made up a preliminary chart. According to Breathitt, “Henry Kissinger was in on the seating, too.” The national-security adviser, who was then a bachelor, was clear about his preferences. “One day I walked upstairs to the second floor of the East Wing,” says Breathitt, “and coming out of the men’s room there was Henry Kissinger with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Russian ambassador during the pits of the Cold War. Henry grabbed me and said, ‘Anatoly, this woman will be the death of me. She seated me next to a 98-year-old crone last night who had no teeth.’ So I said, ‘Phoo on you. That was the foreign minister’s wife, and you need to sit next to someone with dignity and rank.’ He said, ‘I know everything! Bring out the beautiful spies who will torture all these things out of me!’ Dobrynin said, ‘Never seat him next to beautiful women. I cannot do a thing with him the next day when you’ve seated him next to a beautiful woman.’ So that became the challenge: Henry was always seated next to whoever was the prettiest on the guest list. If we didn’t know who was the prettiest or see any likely candidate, the military social aides were told at their briefings that they were to report back on the cleavage factor, and we would then have a massive reshuffling of place cards. It finally came to the point where [White House chief of staff] Bob Haldeman told me that if I ever seated Henry next to a beautiful woman again I’d be fired.”

  11:30am  •  Culture  •  Food  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

A very creative method of job searching

A $6 investment in Google Ad Words landed Alec Brownstein a advertising job at Young & Rubicam. One day, I’m pretty sure someone is going to propose to someone this way.

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13
May 10
Thu

My family tree went viral

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across Geni, which is a website which allows you to construct your family tree. It’s very intuitive to use, and it has quite a lot of functionality. For every person you add, it also emails that person and invites them to join.

I was idly trying out the service and seeded by family tree with my parents, an aunt, uncle and a cousin.  Then I logged in today and saw the Loh family tree had turned into this:

I was very pleasantly surprised. And this is just a partial display – there are several more branches which you can drill down into. The tree is tracking well over 100 family members. It looks like my relatives picked up the idea and ran with it and things spread virally as everyone filled in their area of the family tree (I guess no one wants to feel left out!). My dad has 7 siblings, so the tree mushroomed very quickly from there. I found out a lot about my extended family, including several great aunts and uncles I have never heard of, and the explosive multiplication that can result from an era where polygamy was legal.

Interestingly, much of the heavy lifting was done by relatives in my parents’ generation – people in their 50s and 60s – so it looks like we’ve finally entered an age where everyone is beginning to feel comfortable with technology. I am still bemused by the knowledge that my grandfather uses Skype.

Geni also hooks into the usual array of social networks, and helps you to keep track of far flung relatives (I discovered that the relatives on the tree are living in about a dozen different countries) and record biographical information about them. Geni also tells you the actual relationship you have with someone, so now you can confidently identify your second cousin, twice removed. Very cool!

  7:20pm  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

How the language we speak affects our worldview

An article in Stanford Magazine about research on how language shapes how we think and view the world. I’ve always found this issue fascinating:

English is not that precise, but it is true that every time you use a verb in English, you are conveying information about time. Depending on whether something has happened already (I made dinner), is happening now (I am making dinner), or will happen in the future (I will make dinner), the speaker must pick different verb forms. Without the temporal information, the utterance would feel incomplete, ungrammatical. You couldn’t just say I make dinner in all three cases.

Not so in Indonesian. Unlike English, Indonesian verbs never change to express time: Make is always just make. Although Indonesian speakers can add words like already or soon, this is optional. It doesn’t feel incomplete or ungrammatical to just say, I make dinner.

This led to another fascinating experimental result—and to Boroditsky’s opening up a laboratory in Indonesia. A student from Indonesia assured Boroditsky, who was still skeptical, that most Indonesians simply do not bother to mark time when they speak. So she challenged the student to set up an experiment where Indonesian speakers would be shown photographs of the same act in a time progression: a man about to kick a soccer ball, a man kicking a soccer ball, a man who has kicked the ball, which is flying away. Boroditsky and the student made a bet. Is it possible that Indonesian speakers wouldn’t mark time progression? If they did not care about time, what would they pay attention to?

The article has plenty of other interesting examples, such as how time is a “horizontal” concept for English speakers (past is behind, future is ahead) but a “vertical” concept for Mandarin speaker (past is down, future is up).

It’s fascinating how such a fundamental part of being human (communication via a spoken language) manifests itself in completely different ways around the world – to the extent that the way cultures have figured out how to communicate belong to a myriad of systems which are often completely incompatible and require a very different way of thinking to interpret.

  6:47pm  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Daily news rundown

  • ASIC blocks class actions against bank fees – it looks like that class action suit against the banks that I noted a few days ago has been blocked. Link
  • Rajaratnam claims an IM was about cricket – in a deposition of the Galleon Group co-founder accused of insider trading. Link
  • MGM, straining under ~$4b in debt, got a reprieve – lenders hold off on collecting on repayments until July 14
  • Prudential likely to begin $21b soon – raising funds to buy AIA, AIG’s Asian life insurance arm
  • Canadian tourist bitten on penis by a venomous spider in New Zealand – because it’s a slow news day. Link
  6:42pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Net worth as one life metric

Net-worth Obsession is a Times article about people who track and publicize their net worth online. They total their assets, take away their liabilities, and are left with their net worth (or, if they were a company, equity). It’s a single number which encapsulates their economic well-being. Kind of like a score in a computer game.

Kincer happened upon a Web site called NetworthIQ, which allows people to record their net worths and display the ups and downs for anyone to view. Most people who share their data do so anonymously, but Kincer posts a link to his personal Web site, where he uses his real name. Kincer especially liked that the site allowed him to compare himself with others. It appealed to the Mega Man player in him. “NetworthIQ is kind of a game,” he said. “Can I get ahead of everyone? Can I be up there with the big shots?”

The interest in net worth is a kind of reaction to using salary as the benchmark number. Like a company’s income statement, even if you pull in a healthy revenue, if your expenses exceed your revenue, you’re not in good financial health. The converse is true, of course. If you only look at the balance sheet (net worth), you’re only seeing one part of the picture.

This is intuitive because managing personal finances is really not that different to running a business. You have your revenue (salary, interest on deposits, cap gains on investments, one-off bonuses like winning the lottery, etc.), and you have your costs (rent, entertainment, interest on loans, etc.). The difference between the two is hopefully profit. And how you deploy your profit, over the long run, can impact your net worth as much as what your salary is. Bankruptcy happens when your costs exceed your revenue, and your negative net worth exceeds your credit limit.

Eric Mills has tracked his net worth over time, which results in a pretty cool graph.

Mill now saves a quarter to half of his take-home pay in a savings account in an online bank, but he is not making as many extra payments as he could on the $20,000 or so in student loans he is carrying, nor does he have any money set aside for retirement. “I put a much higher value on flexibility,” he says. “And I feel like the better investment right now is in me. It’s much more important that I have as much freedom and liquidity as I can.”

Net worth is not precisely calibrated with financial freedom. If Mill used all of his savings to pay down some debt, his net-worth figure would remain the same, but he would have no emergency fund if he lost his job. For this reason, he has come to think of the figure as a number that doesn’t really tell his whole story.

However, to be more accurate, if he used some savings to pay down his debt, his net-worth figure would be higher over time. (Personally, Mill’s approach strikes me as a little myopic, but personal financial circumstances differ so much that any comment like that would be just speculation on my part.)

Tangentially, the U.S. has been running huge budget deficits, but unlike you or I, it can simply increase its own credit limit if Congress approves… which it would always do, otherwise the U.S. would default on its loans and the world economy would collapse. The U.S.’s self-issued line of credit – the debt limit – is now almost $14.3 trillion.

Hopefully, one thing that will occur to most of us while reading this article is the thought that crops up in the back of our mind that “happiness is not about maxing a number”. True, but in the case of net worth, it is one aspect of it, although research has typically shown it’s diminishing returns after a certain point.

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12
May 10
Wed

World Cup 2010 – on the tele

As the World Cup draws nearer, ESPN has announced its television coverage of it. Happily, many of its games will be broadcast online through ESPN 360, which means it will be possible for people to watch the games at work. All of the Australian games except one are on the weekend. We have 3 Aussies in our company, so hopefully no one will mind if we tune out for a bit during the Serbia match… it overlaps with lunch, anyway. :)

Here are all the Australian games (times in Pacific Daylight Time):

  • Sunday 6/13 – 11.00am – ABC – Germany vs Australia - Durban
  • Saturday 6/19 – 6.30am – ESPN/ESPN360.com – Ghana vs. Australia – Rustenburg
  • Wednesday 6/23 – 11.00am – ESPN/ESPN360.com – Australia vs. Serbia – Nelspruit
  • Saturday 6/26 - 11.00am – ESPN/ESPN360.com – Rustenburg (if Australia places 2nd in Group D and moves to the 2nd Round)

So looking forward to this. Me and a bunch of mates have a quadrennial tradition of joining a Fantasy League competition. It’s on again this year, and the shit-talking has already started:

Peons,

I can’t wait to dominate the Fantasy World Cup.

Despite my impending victory, in a gesture of my magnanimity and greatness and in the interests of bolstering otherwise frail competition, I thought I would give you peasants some crumbs to feed on.

[Link to some World Cup analysis]

Keep talking. Just more words for you to eat later.

  7:31pm  •  Sports  •  TV  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Goldman Sachs’ new HQ in NYC

The New Yorker reports on Goldman’s new building:

Goldman Sachs, one of the largest and most profitable financial firms in the world, has a different view of things. Several thousand Goldman employees have just moved into a sleek steel-and-glass headquarters in lower Manhattan that is emphatically not called One Goldman Sachs Plaza. At 200 West Street, as the building is known, the name of the firm appears nowhere on the exterior, or in the lobby, or even on the uniforms of the security personnel or the badges given to visitors. Forty-three stories tall and two city blocks long, the Goldman building appears to have been designed in the hope of rendering the company invisible.

And here are some photos: view from the 42nd floor; corner shot from same floor; view from the ground (sorry, the only ones I found on Flickr were HDR and B&W).

  7:24pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Daily news rundown

  • SAP is acquiring Sybase for $5.25b, all cash – reportedly in an effort to compete with Oracle (which acquired Sun last year for $7.4b) – closing is scheduled for Q3 this year – SAP will also assume Sybase’s debt of about $550m
  • Transurban rejected a A$7.2b shareholder-led buyout offer – says offer too low – responding, two major Canadian shareholders who were bidders threaten to sell their 28% stake. Link
  • Baidu’s shares surge after 10:1 stock split – up almost 10% today
  • Now Morgan Stanley is being investigated – over some CDOs. Link
  • WSJ reports that VC industry looks like it’s picking up – M&A activity is healthy with 77 VC-backed companies being sold in Q1 ($3.9b vs Q1 ’09 $3.4b); 15 sold last week alone – 14 IPOs of VC-backed companies so far this year (compared with 8 for all of 2009 and 7 in 2008; Q1 ’10 raised $711m) – IPO pipeline "remains robust" – but, "Some venture capitalists caution the current spate of deals is confined to a relatively narrow set of high-growth or profitable technology and biotechnology start-ups." Link
  • Bank of England May 2010 inflation reportLink
  • Afriqiyah Airways plane crashes in Tripoli, killing 92 – mostly Dutch tourists – boy said to be sole survivor
  • FTC extends AdMob deal review by 2 weeks – due to iAd
  • China Mobile wants the iPad – and also the iPhone, but hasn’t got it yet (the iPhone has been selling really well in China). Link
  • Apple 4th gen iPhone allegedly turns up in Vietnam – teardown reveals an A4 Processor, 256MB RAM
  • More rumors that Verizon will get the iPhoneLink
  • HTC counterclaim accuses Apple of infringing 5 HTC patents
  • Gold hit another high, $1234.93/oz
  6:57pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
11
May 10
Tue

Daily news rundown

  • Australia’s Federal Budget was announcedSMH’s coverageGittins on the budget (video)
  • David Cameron is UK’s new PM – Lib Dems form coalition with Tories – Nick Clegg is Deputy PM – 5 Lib Dems get cabinet posts
  • JPMorgan, Citigroup and BOA join GS in recording trading quarters without any down days – in 61 trading days
  • Verizon rumored to be backing an Android-based tablet – combined with rumors that Verizon will stock a CDMA iPhone by the end of the year, and you have an interesting situation (what does Apple think?) Link
  • AT&T has been bringing forward iPhone upgrade eligibility dates to 6/21 – corroborates a June launch of the 4th gen iPhone. Link
  • MSFT’s Project Natal console probably launching in October – looks very cool. Link
  • CRM company Lithium acquires Scout Labs – rumored $20-25m in stock and cash
  • Mozilla CEO John Lilly leaving to join VC firm Greylock Partners – remains a director
  • Fenwick IP partner Michael Blum joins Quantcast as GC
  • KKR raising $500m in share sale
  • Mizuho planning to raise $8.7b – in common shares to meet increased capital requirements – Mizuho is Japan’s 2nd largest bank by assets
  • Gold futures hit record high of $1232.50/oz
  • Aussie banks in $400m class action lawsuit against them – relating to $5b in "exception" fees like late payment fees (I think the legal argument will be that the fees are penalties and therefore contractually unenforceable). Link
  8:15pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

The effect of petrol prices on vehicle mileage

Driving habits are slow to change. This is a great way to display the information conveyed in this graph by the NY Times:

10
May 10
Mon

Daily news roundup

  • EU delivers a $957b rescue package – markets recover as probability of Greek default dissipates – EU finance ministers agree to provide $636b in lending to deteriorating economies, IMF prepared to give up to $321b separately, ECB reversed policy and is now buying govt bonds and corporate debt, US Fed will also provide liquidity (see below), as will the Bank of Japan – in response, Greek 10Y bonds plummet from 10.25% last Friday to 4.72% today, Euro rose above $1.30, CAC40 up 9.7%, DAX up 5.3%, Dow up 3.9%, gold down slightly, oil up slightly
  • US Fed steps in to help EU with Greek credit woes – Bernanke opens up currency swap lines with the ECB to provide liquidity for the European money markets. Link
  • Obama nominates Kagan as John Paul Stevens’ replacement on SCOTUS
  • GS reveals its traders made a profit on every single trading day last quarterLink
  • Truth behind AT&T’s exclusivity agreement with Apple still as clear as mud – Link
  • Israel finally admitted to OECDLink
  • Fannie Mae reported $13b Q1 loss – still hemorrhaging money
  • Facebook hiring more lawyers – Timothy Muris, former FTC chairman reported to be a likely hire (ostensibly, to deal with FTC investigations) – they earlier hired Tim Sparapani, an ex-ACLU lawyer as director of public policy
  • BRK reports Q1 results – revenue up from $23b to $32b, net earnings rose from –$1.4b to $3.8b.
  • Macbook Air refresh rumored for tomorrow
  • Harrods was sold by al-Fayed to Qatar Holding
  • Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe… link
  • Push for derivatives on movie box office grosses likely to be nixedCantor Exchange in limbo (looks to me like Hollywood is being short sighted again, "The real reason most of Hollywood is opposed to this development is unclear, but it is probably simply the age-old story of large, conservative institutions being averse to change"). Link
  7:26pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

  stuloh Raining in May. What the hell?

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9
May 10
Sun

500 kinds of soft drink

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop is a store in Los Angeles that stocks about 500 different kinds of soft drink (or soda or pop), mostly made with cane sugar and stored in glass bottles which don’t leak carbonation over time. It carries stuff like double colas, a Romanian cucumber soda, coffee soda, and a whole bunch of other goodies.

 
Sadly, the store is in LA and no where else.

  4:55pm  •  Food  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
8
May 10
Sat

Facebook’s gradual relaxation of privacy, visualized

This is a great visual representation of how privacy settings have defaulted on Facebook over the last few years. If you set up your profile today, you have to curate your data a lot more.

And today:

  10:57am  •  Internet  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
7
May 10
Fri

Daily news rundown

  • Apple sued by Nokia over 5 patents – Apple of course counterclaimed – meanwhile, Nintendo, after a decline in profitability, identified Apple as a competitive threat, or "enemy of the future"
  • iPad’s international release announced by Apple – May 28 in Australia, Canada, Japan and Western Europe; HK, Benelux, Mexico, NZ, Singapore, Austria in July – pricing is materially more expensive, apparently due to taxes (top-end model is GBP 699 vs USD 829) – iPad has reportedly sold out in US retail stores
  • UK election results in a hung Parliament – here are their options now – people turned away at poll booths and vote counting went all through the night and the next morning in a mismanaged election
  • Germans approved their portion of Greek bailout – 22.4b Euro over 3 years as part of 110b Euro package
  • Zynga announced Zynga Live – a move towards a split with Facebook after Zynga complains about Facebook’s 30% cut of Facebook credits and negotiations begin to break down
  • AIG announced $1.5b Q1 profit
  • HCA files for $4.6b IPO – health care company was taken private in a $21b LBO in 2006 by Bain Cap, KKR, and MLGPE
  11:43pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Survivor 20.12

Spoilers after the jump.

» Continue reading whole article »

  11:01pm  •  TV  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

  stuloh A$1049 for top of the line iPad in Australia? Ouch. http://bit.ly/ao4k89

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6
May 10
Thu

  stuloh Love these seat result declarations they do in the UK elections. And how they're forced to announce votes for the Monster Raving Loony Party

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Daily news rundown

  • Conservatives lead UK elections, but punters think hung Parliament on the way – the Times has a live feed of BBC’s coverage of the election which is on right now (it’s currently 4am GMT!) – Seats: 226 Con / 169 Lab / 36 Soc Dem / 26 Others (need 326 to win, 457 seats out of 650 called). Link
  • Freak wave of selling sees DJIA fall 550 points in 5 minutes, before rebounding to close the day down 3.21% (-349 pts) – DJIA was down around 1k pts at one point – AUD/USD fell 3c to 0.8780 – mostly caused by European jitters – Euro hammered, reached 14-month low of $1.28. Link. Some of it due to glitches and nerves – Accenture went from $40 to $0.01 for a couple minutes, P&G went from $60 to $39.37. Link 2. Update: looks like some glitch triggering a mass of automated trading programs. Link 3
  • TechCrunch reports how web struggled to keep up with stockmarket volatility – people like to trumpet how quickly Tweets move info, but nothing moves and acts on info as fast as Wall St (or at least the trading programs that traders use). Link. News anchors also struggled to keep up with it. Link
  • Peter Henning analyzes the three arms of litigation GS is potentially facing – SEC civil, criminal, shareholder derivative suits – also evaluates the desirability of obtaining a settlement. Link
  • Blackstone, TPG and others in LBO talks with $11b-large Fidelity National – would be largest LBO since Blackstone bought Hilton for $25b almost 3 years ago – FN is a leading technology provider to banks
  • ICANN switches on non-Latin TLDs – three new TLDs in Arabic script. Link
  • Judge denies AP’s request to unseal affidavit used to obtain search warrant in the Gizmodo iPhone investigations – DA argued affidavit contained names of “two individuals of interest, whom police do not want to alert”
  9:04pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

The US legal job market still sucks

The Wall Street Journal reports on just how shit the legal job market is for grads in the US. Still.

The situation is so bleak that some students and industry experts are rethinking the value of a law degree, long considered a ticket to financial security. If students performed well, particularly at top-tier law schools, they could count on jobs at corporate firms where annual pay starts as high as $160,000 …

Students take on average law-school debt of about $100,000 and, given the job market, many “have no foreseeable way to pay that back,” he said.

Thomas Reddy, a second-year student at Brooklyn Law School, hasn’t landed a summer internship yet after sending resumes to more than 50 law firms. He is taking on about $70,000 of debt each year of the three-year program to earn his degree, but said he may be fortunate to make $80,000 a year in a lawyer job after graduating. “That is less than what I was making before I went to law school,” he said.

Ouch. The market was terrible last year when I was in school, but it doesn’t seem to have improved this year. It turns out that getting a law degree in the US can be a terrible investment. If you don’t get a job, it’s not even something you can sell. JDs from schools in the lower tiers are comparable in cost to T-14 JDs, yet the probability of employment at graduation is substantially less. Is it really worth it?

  7:32pm  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
5
May 10
Wed

Daily news rundown

  • The UK goes to the polls tomorrow – general election being contested between the Tories, Labour, and Lib Dems, but none of these parties are expected to get a majority of seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, leading to a hung Parliament. A coalition will need to be formed to break the deadlock. Hung Parliament makes it difficult to pass legislation at a time the country faces a $250b budget deficit
  • Singaporean shipbuilder New Century cancels $3.84bn IPO – reportedly because the Singapore stock exchange received a complaint that a lawsuit against NC wasn’t mentioned in the prospectus. Link
  • Stack Overflow raised $6m from VCs – including Union Square Ventures
  • Supreme Court Nominees list narrowed to 4: Kagan (Sol-Gen), Woods (7th Cir), Garland (DC) & Thomas (9th) – Kagan is the odds-on favourite, but ATL thinks Woods is the front-runner for a variety of compelling reasons. The two men are probably out of the running
  • Fitch downgrades GS outlook from stable to negative – citing litigation issues. Rating remains at A+, but may slip if criminal indictment occurs (unlikely). S&P and Moody’s already have GS’ outlook at negative. GS closed the day down 0.84% at 148.19
  • Groupon opens Silicon Valley office – Chicago-based daily deals company was valued at $250m last December and, after funding from DST, was valued at $1.35b – 2010 revenue on a $350m runrate (although I question the usefulness of revenue without also knowing their margin)
  • Picasso sold for $106.5m at auction – record price for an auctioned artwork – buyer was anonymous, but speculation it was a hedge fund owner. Link

Bonus links

  8:47pm  •  Business & Finance  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Stephen Hawking on how to build a time machine

Hawkin has written a very accessible article on two ways to time travel (but only into the future, not the past):

To approach the speed of light means circling the Earth pretty fast. Seven times a second. But no matter how much power the train has, it can never quite reach the speed of light, since the laws of physics forbid it. Instead, let’s say it gets close, just shy of that ultimate speed. Now something extraordinary happens. Time starts flowing slowly on board relative to the rest of the world, just like near the black hole, only more so. Everything on the train is in slow motion.

This happens to protect the speed limit, and it’s not hard to see why. Imagine a child running forwards up the train. Her forward speed is added to the speed of the train, so couldn’t she break the speed limit simply by accident? The answer is no. The laws of nature prevent the possibility by slowing down time onboard.

  7:58pm  •  Science & Technology  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
4
May 10
Tue

Transactional attorneys as coders

Alex Macgillivray, Twitter’s GC, has a post on what makes a transactional attorney’s job difficult. Glad I’m not the only one who has compared drafting contracts to writing code (people look at me funny when I draw that analogy). Law is, after all, codified in “codes”.

There is a lot of joy in making a deal work and thinking of creative solutions to disagreements but the job is also VERY tough. To put it in computer terms, imagine the contract as a computer program. In each the object is to be able to interpret the words and have that interpretation drive a result. Now imagine that there is no compiler for your program and that you can’t run any tests. All debugging must be done only theoretically and in your head. Imagine that you are coding with another person that is likely to be trying to develop a program that does something significantly different from what you want it to do. You and the other programmer may have different time constraints and, even though you are trying to do different things, you have to be on good terms with the other person because she could just as easily decide to stop working on your project. You and the other person take turns editing the code but without a common coding environment or standard tools to figure out whether the other person (or you) goofed it up. Then imagine that the code you are writing has a high probability of only ever being “run” through two different interpreters with significantly conflicting points of view about desirable outcomes and you likely won’t get to see the result of any of these “runs.” Or you may be asked to interpret the code in light of complete changes in context. Include a small chance that your code will be “run” by a relatively unbiased interpreter but the outcome of that one interpretation will be at extremely high stakes, often millions of dollars. Finally, know that you will likely get little credit for writing good code but will be crucified if the one time your code is run it doesn’t work flawlessly. Now you are beginning to understand how hard the job of a good transactional attorney is.

I can safely bet that those developers across the room from me don’t think of me as writing code when I’m hammering out a licensing contract…

Microsoft Word is my IDE. We have spell check, which is our rudimentary syntax checker, but no automatic semantic analysis tools, no way of test running it through an interpreter to pick up runtime errors. And no instant gratification from hitting the “run” button and watching it just work. (But it is pretty nice putting pen to paper and signing an agreement. Incidentally, we also call it “executing” an agreement… in much the same way that .exe files are compiled, executable files.)

  11:12pm  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 

  stuloh Is it kosher to follow co-workers on Twitter unsolicited? Oh well, only one way to find out.

  10:26pm  •  Tweet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Daily news rundown

  • FTC said to rule on Google’s $750m AdMob acquisition tomorrow – rumors suggest FTC will block, but even AdMob’s competitors have written into FTC in support of deal
  • FTC also probing Apple’s upcoming iAd service – rumors suggest Apple will charge advertisers on both a CPM and CPC basis (that’s impressions and clicks, not or)
  • RBA lifted the cash rate 25 basis points to 4.5%
  • Google planning to launch Google Editions, its e-book service in June or July – will compete with Amazon and Apple – see also this New Yorker article for background
  • Six Flags is no longer under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • IDC sold to private equity firms Warburg Pincus and Silver Lake for $3.4bn – 33% premium, cash deal – Morgan Lewis acted for seller, Simpson Thacher for buyers
  9:29pm  •  Current Affairs  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

  stuloh First some Vanilla Ice, then I see the MC Hammer pants are on... can anyone say 80s throwback?! #glee

  8:42pm  •  Tweet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

  stuloh Exciting month ahead at work!

  1:08pm  •  Tweet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
3
May 10
Mon
2
May 10
Sun

The Michelin Guide’s undercover inspectors

From last year, a New Yorker article about Michelin’s top secret restaurant inspectors:

Michelin has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain the anonymity of its inspectors. Many of the company’s top executives have never met an inspector; inspectors themselves are advised not to disclose their line of work, even to their parents (who might be tempted to boast about it); and, in all the years that it has been putting out the guide, Michelin has refused to allow its inspectors to speak to journalists. The inspectors write reports that are distilled, in annual “stars meetings” at the guide’s various national offices, into the ranking of three stars, two stars, or one star—or no stars. (Establishments that Michelin deems unworthy of a visit are not included in the guide.) A three-star Michelin ranking—like that enjoyed by Jean Georges—is exceedingly rare. Only twenty-six three-star restaurants exist in France, and only eighty-one in the world.

  2:11pm  •  Food  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

FB Like button integration

I replaced the Facebook Share button with a Facebook Like button at the end of each post. Yes, FB is taking over the web. I wonder how this looks in China? Does the Great Firewall break the page?

  1:32pm  •  Site News  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

At 8.00am PDT, May 2, 2010

My submission to the Times’ project, A Timely Global Mosaic, Created by All of Us (it was way too early on a Sunday morning to get creative):

  10:25am  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

  stuloh Hah, it turns out I'm only 2 degrees of separation away from the Apple dude who lost the iPhone 4G prototype. I was told he kept his job.

  12:03am  •  Tweet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
1
May 10
Sat

  stuloh Imposter! It's just not the same... http://twitpic.com/1k2kdj

  2:22pm  •  Tweet  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 


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