Omakase

Thursday, December 15, 2005

BUY: Google LEAP Put Jan. '07

Right now, Google is on fire, mostly for good reasons (though a bad reason - thin float also explains things). The result is the 24th largest company in US markets by market cap, larger than big, important companies like Novartis and Wells Fargo. Valued at $125b ($420/share), Google will pass IBM's valuation if the stock rises just 7% more.

I'm a fan of Google, but I can't justify such a lofty valuation.

Google gets 99% of it's revenue from advertising. I don't believe that Google can continue the growth rate that justifies such a lofty valuation, nor do I believe that it's competitors will allow it - already MSFT and Time Warner are considering how to jointly maximize AOL's ad platform, while Yahoo isn't standing still either.

In financial terms, GOOG has $5B in revenue and $2B in EBITDA (or thereabouts), valuing the company at 25x revenue, or 62x EBITDA. (Current P/E of 93 and forward P/E of 49; PEG of 2.36). In short, it's an overheated stock.

But it's always dangerous to bet against a charging bull like GOOG. A mistimed short could cost a fortune.

So, betting that GOOG has to come back to Earth sooner or later, I just bought a LEAP put option at $320, dated January 2007. I paid $17/contract, so if Google drops to $303 before Feb 1, 2007, I'm in the money. If not, I'm out $1,700 (1 contract).

So, I'm gambling $1,700 that Google drops 28% over the next 14 months. If GOOG were to drop 33% to $281, I'd make a profit of $2,200. Should it drop by 50% -which I could easily see happening - I make $9,700 in profit.

(Or, I could always sell the LEAP before expiration. In this scenario, I could still make a profit before GOOG hits $303.)

It's a silly bet against the current wisdom, and I could be hilariously wrong (I've suggested shorting when GOOG was at something like $200), but I'm comfortable taking the risk. It's not for everyone. Is it for you?

A letter from New Orleans

A friend from my fantasy baseball league - Marcus Wilson - moved to New Orleans just before Katrina hit town. What follows is a note that he wrote recently to say how he and New Orleans are doing........



I have been debating which way to tell my story, the flowery way I normally write, or a "Just the facts Mam" approach. My life is now about barebones and straight talking, so I think my story should reflect that to some extent.

My apartment sustained minimal wind damage, just cosmetic really. We did not qualify for a "blue roof" from FEMA, as we had no tiles missing that I could tell. Our fridge was something of a debacle, but it refroze when the electricity was turned on a few days before my arrival, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been (imagine seafood, milk and cheese, chicken, various other pleasant things sitting in New Orleans heat for six weeks). A few days after my arrival it was replaced by my landlord. They have been really decent to us, didn't try and evict us, raise our rent, anything like that.

We are lucky considering what other landlords are doing and are trying to do. Rent in the city has gone up 25% percent in the weeks following everyone's return. There just aren't many livable places. I have been slowly cleaning up the house since I got here six weeks ago, actually a lot of it was stuff from our moving down in July/August that hadn't been taken care of yet. I think now our place is as good as it ever will be, but this is our little oasis in New Orleans.

My street, and the eight houses on it were the high ground in our part of town. When the levee broke north of my home, I fully expected to lose everything. I cannot tell you how lucky I feel. You travel south of where I live, and the water marks start to rise, reaching as high as 5-6 feet in some areas of my neighborhood. Some houses are just plain abandoned, others are being gutted. Debris lines the streets, although they have done a decent job of trying to remove it. My first couple of weeks back you could drive down any street and all you saw in the curbs was a four feet tall pile of house debris running the length of the street. I would complain about how the dump trucks picking up all the debris screw up the roads I take, but there isn't any other traffic to fight in New Orleans. I was just down in the French Quarter tonight and I parked in a nearly empty garage at the entrance to the Quarter, and could have parked at a garage in the Quarter.

This is a Saturday night. I was in the Quarter on a Sunday night pre-Katrina, 12am, and I could barely walk through the streets. Tonight we could have marched a band down Bourbon Street.

For several weeks the smell outside was unbearable as the piles of moldy debris were accompanied by the wonderful smell of thousands of rotten refrigerators. This smell doesn't compare to the smell that used to be outside our two competing grocery stores. I used to drive by with the windows up, and made sure not to breathe for just in case. There are places where trees are laying against (or through) houses. Power lines were down, cable and phone were out (phone lines still aren't working, won't be until 2006), gas hasn't been turned on for many homes, even if people are living there. Luckily it is still warm here (70 on Thanksgiving) but cold showers aren't fun for those without gas. We have television, phone, and internet through our cable provider, and that came back on within a week or two of being in town. Our heat is all electricity, so we avoided the gas issue.

Commerce for us has changed. We can no longer go down the street to the grocery stores, or to grab a meal. There isn't a single business open on a stretch of road near us that used to have three large grocery stores, dozens of restaurants and small stores, office buildings, etc. There are some parts of that street that don't even have street lamps, and the intersections are all four way stops as the street signals are out.

The city is but a shadow of its former self. Estimates say that 15% of the city has returned, meaning of city of nearly 500,000 is now around 75,000.
People predict this number will be steady until schools start to open in January, but that is another issue I will return to later.

The unofficial party city of the United States has a 2am-6am curfew, one that is enforced by the National Guard. Every day I see humvees somewhere on my drive. The numbers are not as high as they were, but they still remain visible. We saw all sorts of them on Bourbon Street the other night, a place that is a shadow of its former self. We figure there is something like an 8 to 1 ratio of men to women in New Orleans right now. In addition to the multitude of construction workers, emergency officials, and security, what you have is fathers that are back in the city, trying to repair houses, going back to work, leaving their families in a town with a school.

The excitement in New Orleans these days is if a business will open, when it will open, or something in the way of commerce that reminds us of what is now a forgotten era. My six weeks in the city don't give me a complete picture of what I am missing, but suffice it to say, it is a lot. Oh, we also get excited when we hear someone got a FEMA trailer. We actually have a trailer park at our school now. Twelve trailers taking up the entire Lower School parking lot, right next to our football field, the same field that did not see an a single game this year. We have a tradition of 4pm football games right after school, a tradition that was started by not having lights for the field years and years ago, and a tradition that has since saved the school from investing in lights.

The public schools in New Orleans were among the worst in the country before Katrina. A colleague of mine just came over from a middle school there, and the stories he tells are quite amazing, unbelievable to me. Of the 611 students in his old middle school, ten. yes, TEN, of them read AT grade level. They often didn't have enough textbooks for each student so one of their popular exercises in class was the copy the text by hand so that they could take it home to study at night. This is BEFORE the storm. Since the storm not a single public school in New Orleans has opened their doors. The teachers aren't being paid, and many are permanently moving away. A large percentage of the schools are flooded are won't be repaired. Many of the private schools in the area also aren't open, as they either flooded or lacked the personnel to resume school.

The two schools which we compete with for students have laid off a combined 120 teachers since the storm. My school has yet to do so, putting forth an incredible effort to retain faculty. They have also continued to pay us throughout the storm whether we are on campus or not. The financial burden this has placed on the school has only compounded the bill for renovating about 40% of campus.

We received anywhere from two to four feet of water on our campus, which included my classroom. I didn't lose much as most of my books and materials were on shelves, elevated high enough above the water, but there was still loss. My damage was not as severe as the Lower School, where all six of the multiage Kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms were flooded as well.
Next time you are in primary classroom, look at everything that is within two feet of the floor, and you will come to grips with what these teachers and students lost.

Our greatest loss was probably in our Upper and Middle School library.
Every book on the bottom shelf was lost, including multimedia materials, reference materials, you name it. Luckily for us we have a two story library, so we didn't lose 20% of our collection more along the lines of 10% from my estimates. This still comes out to be over a thousand books, probably more.

Two years ago we built a new middle school and gymnasium. They flooded as well, meaning that we had to replace the wood floor of our basketball court, a floor that was only two years old. All the tile and carpet in the areas that were flooded had to be replaced. They had to rip out and replace the sheetrock in dozens of classrooms. Every seat in the auditorium had to be replaced. We lost around 5 pianos in our music room, a building which is schedule for demolition in the coming weeks. The list goes on and on, it would take me weeks to list the damage we have suffered. What makes the story even worse is that it is the same one being told over and over again by thousands and thousands of New Orleans residents, and often to a greater extent.

Despite what you have read above, our school is fortunate. The school is not in Orleans Parish, so the flood waters went down quickly, and people were also allowed back in much sooner to do repair work. Our head of maintenance was on campus a day or two after the hurricane and started remediation immediately. He had people on campus before any other school in the area. There have been a solid group of teachers on campus cleaning and gutting, trying to prepare school and help defray the incredible costs of cleaning up and rebuilding school.

As it stands, we are estimating a 5 million dollar price tag at our school for the Katrina disaster. You have lost or returned tuition, construction costs, insurance premiums, all sorts of things bundled into this. The school is hoping insurance will cover some of this, but we know it won't cover all of it. In the end we are going to have to fundraise more money this school year than the school has ever raised in a single campaign, and those campaigns last several years.

The school will continue on. We are already holding limited classes in the available rooms on campus. The school is going to be up and running at nearly full speed come January 2nd. We don't know if there will be much of a Winter Break for faculty, so I may not be returning home, but it will be nice to have some normalcy come January. We are expecting around 500 students when we being spring classes, short of our 750 pre-Katrina, but still a good number to start with. There will be job cuts in the spring as our numbers solidify and our projections for future enrollment become apparent, because you cannot keep our faculty intact when there are so few students in comparison. For those that do stay, it will likely mean a freeze or reduction in pay, a decline in benefits, and a return to the scrounging of public school teaching. My outlook is 50/50 right now. I come to the table with the ability to teach many subjects at a variety of age levels, this will, without a doubt, be my saving grace. That and I am cheap labor. Right now I am teaching art, history, and math. In the fall I could be doing something entirely different, perhaps even a trip back to the Lower School. On never knows in this uncertain life after Katrina.

I am healthy, usually happy, and paying my bills. Barb has returned to New Orleans (with our cat) so there is some normalcy for me. Shopping is an adventure, and I will likely be unable to find a teaching job should I lose mine in the spring, but there are more jobs around here than you can shake a stick at. I could work at Target for $12 an hour stocking shelved after hours, or work at Burger King and receive a $6000 signing bonus. The options are unlimited right now as the economy tries to figure itself out.

Heck, the Borders just opened back up, so I guess there is another old haunt
I could return to. I hope this finds everyone doing well, and know how
genuinely glad I am to call all of you friends. Your generosity was incredible, something I will never forget.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Value Investors Flock to Microsoft

I couldn't have said it better myself (though I tried to yesterday): MSFT is a buy on valuation.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Buy: Microsoft

I'm sure there are better ideas out there, but few less risky.

MSFT, with a market cap of $285B, but with $40B in cash, has been generating greater than $4B in operating cash per quarter, though paying out less than $1B per quarter.

I think this has to change - perhaps in the form of a higher quarterly dividend, a special dividend like last year, or increased stock buybacks, like Intel just announced.

Beyond the cash argument, I think 2006 and 2007 will be huge years for MSFT, as they'll be refreshing all of their important products (Windows, Office), and also a new XBOX (which has to date been a HUGE money loser for MSFT.)

(I buy to hold for 2 years at a minimum. I'll explain that in a future posting.)

MSFT's forward P/E is: 17.8 - roughly the same as a large bank, and the company - after accounting for cash is valued at ~12x operating cash flow - not bad for a business still growing revenues at >11% and earnings @ ~15% annually.

(Another way to look at it is: would you be excited to own a stock that's a monopoly, yet still growing sales and earnings at double digit rates, and valued at an earnings multiple comparable to large, low growth bank? Sounds good to me!)

(Actually, you had me at "monopoly.")

The only thing not to like: MSFT is the Evil Empire. I hate their dysfunctional software and hate even more their predatory, anti-competitive business practices. (For the record, I own and use an Apple iMac.)

But, as much as I hate MSFT, that's how much I'd like to see my portfolio grow. I may hate Microsoft, but I sure hope it helps pay for a nice retirement.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Take this simple, probably unscientific but accurate test to see your linguistic roots (or is that routes? :))

I'm
45% general American
30% Yankee
20% Dixie
5% upper midwestern

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pictures from European travels - Eastern Scotland


I've also posted a collection of pictures from my travels to Scotland, including my first published views of Dundee. Just click on the headline above.

Pictures from European travels - Berlin, Germany


Take a look at pictures from my recent trip to Berlin, a city still showing the scars of the 20th century. (Just click on the headline above.)

A couple of notes of interest:

-I was based in, and spent the majority of my time in East Berlin.

-as told by locals, East Berlin is more scenic because the former East Germany did not have any money to revamp or raze WWII damaged buildings. Consequently, there are more old streets and old buildings on the Eastern side.

-the most interesting thing that I saw didn't make it into the pictures. It was the Eastern culture, characterized by row upon row of uninspiring "Worker's Paradise" apartment buildings.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Air traffic - wow!

follow this link to see a graphic representation of a typical day's air traffic. At any time there can be >4,000 planes in the air, and by appearances, they're all coming or going to about 6 spots.

facet24.mov (video/quicktime Object)

Fuzzy Outlook for OSI-Eyetech Merger [Fool.com]

Interesting deal between OSI and Eyetech. The combinatin could theoretically be the world leader in therapies involving (v)EGF signaling, which I think would be lucrative. However, the polluting of the Genentech relationship might be a mistake......unless OSI thinks they can always sell the combination to Genentech or a larger pharma.

The other element that makes this deal interesting is the Eyetech valuation. The deal is at a 43% premium to Eyetech's recent close, AND a 58% DISCOUNT to what Eyetech was trading at the beginning of the year. I haven't run the numbers (yet) but suppose that the market overreacted to the good news of Genentech's Lucentis which now looks supperior to Eyetech's product. (However, Lucentis won't be on the market before 2007.)

The other possible interpretation: Eyetech was scared by Lucentis (the news came out in late May), and rapidly sought a suitor, with OSI being naive enough to strike a deal.

Either way, my OSIP stock has taken a 20% haircut today. I'm not sure what to do now.

Fuzzy Outlook for OSI-Eyetech Merger [Fool.com: Motley Fool Take] August 22, 2005

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bad business, bad football......

Al Groh is 30-21 in 4 years as coach of UVa, though only 1-8 against our top conference peers (VT, FSU and Miami), yet just snagged a contract on par with the elite college coaches (i.e. those who go to BCS bowls), and a $1M raise. Groh's teams have finished his four seasons ranked in the ESPN Coaches' Poll as follows:

2001: unranked, with no votes for the team in any of the final polls
2002: 25th
2003: unranked, with only 3 votes
2004: 23rd.

I wonder what Groh would have gotten if he had ever had a final top 20 ranking, won the games that matter, and had UVa competitive nationally.

I can't fault Groh for asking to renegotiate his contract, and I'm sure there will be a ripple effect of coaches more successful than Groh asking to renegotiate (such as VT's Beamer, making "only" $1.3M), but this was an absolutely stupid decision by the athletic department.

For starters, I can't see how Groh's boss (es) perceive him as a top tier performer. Groh has pretty well-bamboozled the UVa establishment with his NFL credentials and style, but does it work at the end of the day? (I'm holding back here, as I'm convinced that Groh's "NFL-Style" is close to charlatanism.)

Second, whatever happened to rewarding performance instead of paying for promise?

Thirdly, how can UVa's athletic department support an additional $1M in salary expense? Groh's extra $1M equates to about 50,000 extra tickets sold every year, or almost one whole home game. (I'm assuming $20 profit per ticket.) This suggests that the 12th game on the schedule - to be added next year - will basically be to pay for the coaching staff.

Finally, I'm troubled by the notion that even if the athletic department has an extra $1M lying around, that investing in ongoing athletic department expense is the best thing for the university. I need to do more research, but I believe that the UVa athletic department is pretty much breakeven (even before the massive current expansion in expenses related to the basketball program.)

My impression is that problem is a serious lack of business savvy and discipline among University presidents. Their permissiveness has created a monster in the athletic dept. (AD), which the presidents view only slightly more favorably as a fundraising loss leader, as AD's have burgeoning revenues, but little total contribution to university support. Of course, the University contributes little more than it's name and some admission slots, and gets 5 or 6 fun weekends when little college towns become big league - if only for 6 hours - so who would want to kill the golden goose?

I think UVa (and other prominent universities) should instead demand a permanent return on AD revenues. I'd do this in the form of a 50% royalty to the University on all athletic department revenues. This concept is not unlike the royalties that colleges claim on logowear.

I have a vague recollectiuon that UVa athletic revenues total something like $20M, meaning the university would add $10M in annual support. Besides the support, this idea would not only introduce some fiscal sanity, but also reset on-campus priorities. Sure, UVa in particular would fall out of national athletic prominence, but really, with most universities familiar with prostituting themselves for smaller amounts, what wouldn't the university do for an extra $10M per year?

Friday, August 19, 2005

F.U.T.O! An Open letter to T.O. Terrell Owens

Hilarious open letter from a 12 year old (sort of) to my formerly favorite Eagle, Terrell Owens (T.O.). I hope someone backs up a truck full of 12 million hotdogs onto his front lawn.

F.U.T.O! An Open letter to T.O. Terrell Owens

Saturday, August 13, 2005

btw.....

Something to think on if you're deciding whether or not to buy BAC: my last recommendation (CBH on May 27), is up 27% since I recommended it.

(Honestly, though, I'm surprised at how much it's risen in such a short time.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

BUY: BAC

I promised that I would post my buys and sells, so I'm reporting here that I bought some BAC (Bank of America) at $42.70.

I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but my buying rationale was as follows:

-the current stock price represents a buying opportunity, as a the MBNA acquisitions announcement and the Fed's increase in interest rates have pushed the stock down ~8% in the last month.

-the decline in price has driven the P/E down to only 10.5 (ttm) and 9.6 (forward.) If this stock gravitates to a 12X p/e in 12 months, the stock will trade at $53 next year, given the $4.43 earnings estimate. That would be a 24% gain, not including dividends.

-PEG ratio is at only 1.05, meaning that you're buying growth at a reasonable price.

-BAC pays a fat dividend (4.22%, equal to .6% after tax - much better than my 2% after tax cash yield.)

-I like Ken Lewis (CEO) and his intent to turn mergers into intended earnings synergies. The consistent pattern of earnings growth seems to prove this.

-I fundamentally believe in their intent to be the first (and probably only, for a while) bank with a nationwide footprint. Account opening stitistics indicate that people are figuring out there's value in having a bank present in both their primary home (say, Boston), and their vacation destination (Florida), and perhaps where they travel on business regular (St. Louis? Carolina? San Francisco?)

-Among competiting retail banks, B of A is close to gaining a lasting scale advantage - they're really separating themselves from the field.

I intend to hold these shares for more than one year. These shares won't double in value any time soon, but if they have just an OK year and provide 10% growth + 4.2% dividend equals a nice, safe annual return.

Thoughts?

One last bit about Macau and Skywalk.....





Here's a view of skywalkers in action. It's not our group, but representative, even down to the weather.

Also, I've got more Skywalk pictures on my personal webpage.

Finally, I've included a few maps to show you where Macau is in the grat big scheme of things.....

Macau Tower adventure





On my 1st full day in Hong Kong, I started off by taking one of the famous double decker trams which terminated in front of the ferry terminal to Macau. Macau, like Hong Kong, is a former European colony at the mouth of the Pearl River in China. It's a 60 minute jetfoil ride from Hong Kong to Macau, which I had planned to do anyway, but since I was in front of the ferry terminal, I decided to do it that day.

I mildly screwed up the ticketing process - assuming that I could get tickets on the next foil close to the departure time, and went to a McDonald's, where I had, of all things, Korean BBQ (which was very tasty.)

I made the jetfoil, because I bought a first class seat (only $4 more, which also included lunch - guh!). The jetfoil, to my disappointment, was a completely enclosed boat (w/ windows.) First class meant a free copy of the South China Morning Post, and I sat back to give it a read, until I spotted an advertisement on the seat tray table in front of me for the Macau Tower.

I had plans to see other sights in Macau, but I rapidly pushed them aside and made a beeline to the Tower as soon as we made land. (I took the bus from the Ferry terminal, though, so my beeline wasn't as rapid as desired!)

The Tower, which serves no commercial purpose (no offices, no communications equipment) runs a series of extreme adventure activities. I chose the Skywalk X - a walk around the outside of the Tower @ 233 meters (~725 feet) above the city, on a 5ft. wide walkway. (With winds blowing at altitude too.)

It dawned on me, as I was taking my first steps onto the walkway, that all of the other customers were smallish local folks who probably weighed 100 pounds less than me. This really got me thinking, as I could feel the metal walkway flex with each step.

While slightly scary, the Skywalk was exhilarating, with amazing views of Macau, China, and the Pearl River on a clear day, as you can see from these pictures.

(A little picture info: Macau is all of the area inside the mountains, a fully developed city. So developed in fact, that the land the Tower stood on was only recently engineered (reclaimed) in the late 90's.

We had an excellent tour guide who took these pictures. While in many of the pictures I stretched out off the Tower, the tour guide routinely clung on by his toes to get some great pictures.

Skywalk X was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

The total adventure cost $190. Luckily, that's 190 Macau patacas, at roughly 8 to $1USD, making the total cost about $24.

Macau Tower


I'll be posting more about my trip through Asia just as soon as my pcitures arrive, but in the meantime, here's a little about one memorable activity: walking around the outside of the Macau Tower, ~800 feet off the ground!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Stem Cell Divide @ National Geographic Magazine

A very good introduction to stem cells.

FWIW: my view is that the Bush polikcy on stem cells is OK. My view is colored by the knowledge that

1) payoff from this research is 2 generations away (20+ years).
2) to most scientists, it is less of an ethical debate than one of academic freedom and a funding grab.
3) I'm happy that a national leader is willing to draw a reasonable ethical line in the sand. Part of this is simply pleasure in ANY position, but I think Bush's position of "the research is OK, but don't make those who don't like it pay for it," is fair.
4) pro-stem cell rhetoric - featuring appeals to "help Christopher Reeve walk again," doesn't pass my my "well-intentioned" sniff test.

The Stem Cell Divide @ National Geographic Magazine

Wired News: FAQ: What's Up With Stem Cells?

Here's a quick, impartial stem cell Q & A

Wired News: FAQ: What's Up With Stem Cells?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

BioEconomy.org - The Biotechnology Economy

Probably useful only to me, this site compares international regions for their biotech investment worthiness.
BioEconomy.org - The Biotechnology Economy

Kerry's Yale Grades Similar to Bush's - Yahoo! News

The facts here say alot about perception and also about reporting bias.

Lo and behold, W. Bush actually outscored Kerry in college.
Kerry's Yale Grades Similar to Bush's - Yahoo! News

(btw: isn't it funny that Kerry got a D in political science?)

Friday, May 27, 2005

Buy: CBH

As I get stock ideas, I'll post them to this page.

More than just an idea, I acted, and made a buy of CBH @ $27.76 on 5/26/05. I think this is a buy at least up to 30 in the short term. My expectation is that this is a $40 stock by the end of 2006.

Smartmoney.com: Stock Screen: Banking On Dividends

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Forbes.com: GM: It's Worse Than You Thought

Amid al of the talk about poor, poor General Motors - suffering from rising "legacy" costs (mostly health care, and entirely self-induced), only Jerry Flint points a figure in the direction of the greatest cause: really bad management. Jerry gives on example here. My favorite example, though, is the new Pontiac G6, an economical 4 door sedan, with nothing special about it - it's just a car created to sell in volume. Not only is it underpowered, and with dubious trim, but it's also got the world's worst marketing slogan to go with it "The First Ever G6."

Whoop-de-do! Wow - first ever, but what the heck is a G6? Does the 'G' stand for "gas mileage?" Does the 6 stand for it's 0-60 time?

No, G6 stands for absolutely nothing.

You know you might be in a bad spot if the best thing you can say about your car is the it's the first to carry that namebadge.

Forbes.com: GM: It's Worse Than You Thought

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jersey Devil makes rare appearance (phillyBurbs.com)

Ever heard of the Jersey Devil? It's a legend from where I grew up (in the Pine Barrens). I can literally recall watching a film in elementary/middle school chronicling the legend in a semi-scientific way.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to post this. (And also because Camp Ockanickon (mentioned in the article) was pretty much in my backyard. It was also the place our winter track team trained, so I spent an inordinant amount of time at the Camp.)
Jersey Devil makes rare appearance (phillyBurbs.com)

Election appreciation

I'm very happy to have seen the Iraqi election turnout so high. Appreciation for democracy - often taken for granted here in the States - is a beautiful thing. Follow this link to see the thoughts of a grateful Iraqi.

IRAQ THE MODEL

Now, if we could just bring about 100,000 troops home, and save a few billion $$$$......

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

How Much Tax Would You Like to Pay?

Here's an undeniably worthwhile idea to re-engineer our tax system. It's a flat tax OR a complex tax - whichever you like. I really can't see how anyone could object.

How Much Tax Would You Like to Pay?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Europe as a superpower?

I'm surprised how many folks are starting to write about the ascendancy of Europe - in spite of overwhelming evidence of the rising irrelevance of Europe.

Smarty writers like T.R. Reid cite the prominent role of European government and the social net as 2 reasons for Europe's ascendancy. I would argue that these are actually arguments against (government isn't a growth industry, nor exportable, and the social net will be ripped apart by changing continental demographics), but Europe is economically coasting, at best. (btw: I think societal measurement begins with economic results and frameworks. Cutesy stats like "quality of life," just aren't important enough, nor are they ever possibly accurate.)

I think it's way more likely in 20 yrs. that the 2 biggest superpowers in the world are the US and China, with Europe taking the role of "pandering swing vote."

Social Studies (01/28/2005)

Steroids cartoon

This cartoon pretty much sums up the baseball-steroids issues.
Reason

Hewlett-Packard: Why Carly's Big Bet Is Failing - FORTUNE

Just a shout out to everyone who had to listen to me denounce the HP-Compaq merger as value destructive 3 yrs. ago. More proof that 2nd tier companies can't merge into top tier companies. (Or in the case of HP & Compaq, good companies with secondary positions in certain markets.)

CEO - Hewlett-Packard: Why Carly's Big Bet Is Failing - FORTUNE

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I'm actually proud of this, in a way......

Here's a story with some facts behind the reputation of Philly fans (of which I'm one, though I've never pelted Santa with a snowball.)

Yahoo! Sports - NFL - Philly fans' rogue image got boost when Santa booed in 1968:

I've got 2 stories to add to the legend of the Philly fans:

When I was 9 or 10 years old, like any good Cincinnati Reds fan, and in particular a Johnny Bench supporter, I wore a Reds jersey to a meaningless midsummer game in Philly between the Reds and Phils. Halfway into the game, I noticed a few peanut shells down the back of my chair, but thought nothing of it.

In actuality, fans were throwing the peanut shells at my jersey. Before the end of the game, I also had a small amount of beer "spilled" on me, a ten year old. (So, if a 10year old gets hit with peanut shells, I don't have a hard time believing Santa got hit with snowballs.)

Also......

I went to a baseball game in Philly a few weeks after Philly legend Mike Schmidt retired during the season. While most agree that Schmidt was the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, he had a love-hate relationship with the city.

While walking around the stadium, I noticed a fan dressed head to toe in a Phillies uniform with a mustache and wig of red hair, like Schmidt's. On the back was Schmidt's number, but "K. Witter" in place of Schmidt's name.

I started to walk away thinking that someone named "Kevin Witter," or "Karl Witter," was offering a tribute to Schmidt, and then it dawned on me......K. Witter reallly was meant as "Quitter!"

Only in Philly......

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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World sun clock

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Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous