Monday, December 31, 2007

Book of the Day: The Third Wave

Alvin Toffler's classic, 'The Third Wave' presents a fascinating study of the forces that shape society today and will reshape the future. If you're wondering what the waves are, the first was agriculture, the second was industrialization and the third is the knowledge revolution. Even though it was written back in 1980, it offers a convincing argument for the shape of things to come. While Toffler's predictions aren't always spot on, the general principles are seen to be in play. Best of all, once you read this, you can read his later work, especially his latest book called 'Revolutionary Wealth'.

Footnote: The challenge if you plan to buy this book is finding a classic edition. The mass paperbacks available in B&N features much too small a print for my liking!

Gimme a Break: It's Illegal to backup your CD on your comp!

This the latest from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It's illegal to copy a music CD you purchased onto your computer or iPod, even if it's for personal use. I say, gimme a freaking break! I'm all for copyright protections, but the benchmark has always been that you weren't allowed to distribute the music. The theory was that if you spend a good bit of money buying a CD, you were within your rights to make a backup to protect your investment from scratches, but now the RIAA argues in court that that is illegal.

Here's to betting the RIAA will become irrelevant in 10 years!

Geek Tip: Extreme Makeover Desktop Edition

If you are using Windows XP and are ready for a new look, envious of your Mac-owning yuppy friends who have neat graphics and superior rendering, here are two tips for you.

One, don't be. The Mac is cool for those who want something that looks cool. But all those animations (when you start a program, you actually have the icon bounce!) and other gizmos exact a cost on performance.

Two, having said that, you can get a Vista-like feel to your desktop using the Vista Transformation Pack. Below are four plates showing the boot sequence, the login interface, and two screenshots. I personally don't care for the sidebar, and will do a post some other time reviewing different sidebar options available, but for now, here's to a cleaner UI (that's user interface, for you non-geeks)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pic of the Day: Goodbye Benazir

While she may not have been all she's been cut out to be now in obituaries, Benazir Bhutto represented an important part of post-Zia Pakistan. With her death, there is definitely a power void in the PPP, which is a little scary as they might have been the party to win.

This is the last picture ever taken of a living Benazir. Goodbye Benazir, we'll miss you!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Why Rudy Won't Be President

While he's no longer considered the front-runner, Rudy Guiliani has been topping national polls for the Republican ticket for a while. However, an analysis of the primaries show just how long a shot his winning the ticket is. Let's us walk through this...

(I'm using the numbers from RCP)

Jan 3, Iowa: Guiliani comes in fifth.
Jan 8, NH: Guiliani comes way behind Romney and McCain.
Jan 15, MI: Rudy comes in fourth, behind McCain.
Jan 19, SC: Rudy comes in fifth. That's four down in a row.
Jan 19, NV: Rudy has the first chance of winning. But then again, with 3 down, and he's currently tied with Romney, he might lose the chance to win.
Jan 29, FL: So Rudy leads in opinion polls here right now. But with that kind of drubbing, it's hard to see how he can maintain that lead.

So Rudy could well enter Super Tuesday with no wins, and at most 2. Admittedly, the field's diverse, and others could be in the same situation. But Huckabee, Romney and McCain have a lot more 2nd and 3rd place finishes than Rudy.

Kiva Update

Wow, looks like a Web 2.0 day. I had written previously about microloans using Kiva. Well, I'm happy to report I just had one of my lenders completely repay the loan. Sergei Borodzhayev of Ukraine just repaid $1,200 he had borrowed for buying construction supplies 6 months ago. I'm not free to roll my $75 loan into a new loan to a new entrepreneur. Both Shahin Novruzov of Azerbaijan and Mahbuba Ahmedova of Tajikistan have been paying in a timely fashion.

To learn more, visit Kiva.

Nifty Website of the Day: Mint

Have trouble keeping track of exactly where you're spending money? Enter Mint. Mint directly obtains information from you bank accounts and credit cards and categorizes your spending patterns. It can recognize a charge under 'Taco Bell' to be in the 'Fast Food' category, but you can also develop rules to classify expenses to one category or the other. It also makes recommendations for changes you can make to save more money, such as (in my case) switching to Verizon from AT&T. There is still a lot of functionality to be built in, but for a free clean website, it's gets 2 thumbs up!

UPDATE Lifehacker has a more comprehensive review on Mint, including screenshots. Also, after having played around a little more, I think the best part of using Mint is tracking your budget.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

McCain is Back, and He's Gooooood!!

From the start of the presidential race, one candidate has had my hypothetical vote (as a foreigner, I don't get to vote) since the start. John McCain doesn't align with me perfectly, but he represents the kind of politician I would be - fiscally conservative but supporting regulation in some areas, socially conservative on some issues and liberal on issues. But above all, an ethical one.

That McCain seemed almost to be gone when he was an establishment candidate and a front runner. While I did realize the need to embrace the powerful interest groups such as the evangelists, it seemed like the McCain I loved was morphing. Well, no more! The kickass McCain is back, as Time magazine put it and he's super! So super that you even have the Weekly Standard, a prominent conservative outlet, writing quite glowingly about him.

Dissing corn subsidies in Iowa ... now that's a political slogan that will get him support nationally. It helps that he was right on Iraq ... a surge has helped and made Gen Petraeus the 'Man of the Year' (never mind what the folks at Time think!) in my book. But above all, it helps that he's genuine.

To be fair, he's trailing big-time. But I think at some point, people are looking for a candidate who's genuine. I dare say that's why W. won in 2000, and that's why Obama's doing so well in the Democratic circles.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Eau d'asparagus

You know you're a dork when you're drunk at a bar, walk past a room of attractive women, enter a crowded men's room and wonder why asparagus makes your urine smell funny. Well, this time I was sober enough to remember the next day, so here's the answer from WebMD:
it's the result of a simple chemical reaction. Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called mercaptan... When your digestive tract breaks down this substance, by-products are released that cause the funny scent... But not everyone has this experience. Your genetic makeup may determine whether your urine has the odor -- or whether you can actually smell it. Only some people appear to have the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan into its more pungent parts ... The ability to smell the by-products may also be genetic. Another study published in the same journal found that 10% of a group of 300 Israeli Jews could not detect the odor. In other words, a person's urine could smell, but he or she might not know it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dissing Iowa

I learned recently that Iowa has NEVER elected a woman as Governor or to the US Senate or Congress. Never! Ever! Great, we give first dips on our president to a bunch of mostly-white male-chauvinists!

Huckabee Watch

So far, it was all about how Huckabee was "folksy", but now the dirt starts flowing.

In a response to a questionnaire when he was running for US Senate, Huckabee has this to say:
It is difficult to understandth e public policy towards AIDS -- it is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolatedf rom the generalp opuiation,a nd in which this deadlyd iseasefo r which there is no cure is being treated as a civii rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.

This four years after the surgeon general clarified that AIDS is not spread by casual contact.

But the saga goes on ...

Turns out Huckabee was one of the signatories of a Southern Baptist Convention ad that has this to say:
You are right because you called wives to graciously submit to their husband's sacrificial leadership.

(To be fair, the next line says that husband and wife are equal before God)

I'll keep my eye out for more zanies from Mike.

Chart of the Day: Median Home Price to Median Income

Courtesy of GMO, the ratio of median home price to median income. Anyone who thinks this real estate slump is over (like the snake-oil charmers at the National Association of Realtors) are going to be sadly mistaken!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Website of the Day:

The website of today is Prosper. Started by the founder of E-LOAN, the idea of the website is to leverage the power of the Internet to allowing individuals to lend and borrow to each other. If you want to be a lender, you can search for individuals based on credit quality and loan size, or any of many other metrics. You bid on an interest rate, and can place a bid for as low as $50. The idea is very similar to Kiva, about which I have previously written, except for the lack of philanthropic intentions and the profit.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Stunning Prediction of the Day: Lending in a Credit Crunch

I read this in John Maudlin's latest piece
Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs forecasts a recession and that the growing credit crunch will reduce lending by about $2 trillion