‘War on the Middle Class’

This was the tagline at the bottom of the screen as I was watching CNN. The story was about how middle class people are unable to pay their home mortgages any longer because they were duped by subprime lenders who promised them an affordable home.

Now, this story featured a ‘middle-class’ woman who earned about $43k a year, bought a $710,000 home, and her monthly payments are $7k a month. I am sure I am not the only person who sees the absurdity of the situation. If you buy a $700k home on that salary, you’re not only middle class, but also retarded.

Good thing the Government is using taxpayer money to bail these people out of their housing woes.

2008 is here

The year 2008 is here, finally. Even though a lot of significant things happened in 2007, here’s how I would remember it:

1. India got her first female President.
2. Television got some really great new shows.
3. The US still tried to force-feed its way of life and governance to countries worldwide, only at the cost of national pride, credibility, and the economy.
4. Lots of school shootings, including one in India.
5. The resurgence of Apple Inc. as a dominant force in the computing industry.
6. The year of the iPhone. (This needed special mention)
7. India got some leeway from the insurgency efforts of neighboring Pakistan, who was busy trying to clean its own mess.
8. The job market actually improved a lot.
9. USCIS messed up and people got their GCs in record time for a month.
10. The year it started being really cool to be an Indian.

And then:

1. The year I changed my attitude towards people and ideas.
2. The year I realized I could do anything I wanted.
3. The year that actually made me a whole lot wiser.
4. The year I got rid of the mildew on my friends list.
5. The year I added a tame 19,000 miles to my car’s odometer.

I am sure there’s more I could think of, but this is all my sleep-deprived-shindig-stricken mind could come up with this early Tuesday morning.

Have a Wonderful New Year ’08 !

Are you a smart shopper?

I have come to believe that you’re a smart shopper if the stock price of the company whose products you consistently buy keeps on going up.

Since my move to Apple products, and since the time I bought AAPL stock, it has gone up roughly about 10%. I own a Mac, an iPhone, Airport Extreme and Express, couple iPods, and some Apple software. It is the best operating system I have ever used, and I find Objective C so much better than anything else I have seen, it is amazing. Java and even C# were more than inspired by Objective C.

Similarly, I am a big fan of OS hardware and software virtualization, and most importantly VMWare. The last few months have seen EMC’s stock price skyrocket along with moving towards a spectacular rating by stock analysts.

I use Tide to do my laundry. The PG stock is one of the best performing stocks in NYSE right now.

I think the only stock not doing relatively well (at least in my opinion) for which I am a regular customer is Microsoft. But then, there’s really no competitor to the Xbox 360 right now!

Free email no longer charming enough

I just realized that I have completely transitioned myself out of using any sort of free email service (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.). One of the lures of free email used to be the cost associated with getting our own domain, along with hosting services, but thanks to mass consumer adoption and services like Google Apps for Domains, that no longer holds true.

If I am scared of spam, I just create a temporary email address on my domain; if I am scared of running out of storage, well, Google provides 2 GB!

Apart from my personal domain, I now use .Mac for almost everything else. It costs a lot, but is more than just an email service.

I wonder if this is going to be an increasing trend as people move away from free email services for personal communication.

10 years ago: Then and now

I was thinking how much things have changed in the last 10 years. We now live in an increasingly connected society, at least from a technological point of view. Yet, at the same time, there are things that haven’t changed at all. We still have the middle east crisis. We’re still fighting hunger and poverty, and we’re still in search of a new source of energy!

10 years ago:

  1. I was trying to get in a good college.
  2. My primary computer was a desktop PC running Windows 95. The processor was 66Mhz Pentium.
  3. I was experimenting with Linux in a big way.
  4. I did not have an Internet connection at home.
  5. I used to dial in to a few BBS’ across the world.
  6. I was excited about being able to finally have a cable TV connection at home.
  7. I was a computer “whiz-kid”.
  8. I couldn’t cook to save my life.
  9. I wanted to grow up to be an engineer working for the Indian Government.
  10. I never thought I would move to a distant country.

Now, things that have remained unchanged:

  1. The Simpsons is still the longest running prime-time animated series.
  2. Human cloning is still banned.
  3. Tony Blair is still the Prime Minister of Britain (although he’s retiring on June 27th).
  4. India’s President is still from the minorities.
  5. Toyota Prius is still quite a buzzword.
  6. The middle east is still strife-torn.
  7. The space race is still on, albeit between the West and the rest of the world.

The business of spamming email inboxes

Lately, I have been getting a lot of spam emails in my inboxes (both gmail and gargs.com), inspite of the usually reliable spam protection provided by Google. A lot of this spam has attached images that I usually discard without looking. I decided to look at one of these emails tonight, and it was spam sent by someone paid indirectly by a listed company to coerce investors into buying their stock!

As you can see, the company is not doing very well, but it has some good news in the form of about $275,000 in non-brokered private proceeds. It has also appointed a new President, and a new Mining Consultant. I believe this company has only recently been listed, but due to my limited investment and stock exchange knowledge, I am not sure if that is correct. Nevertheless, what took me by surprise is the fact that the picture has a legal disclaimer that says that the spammer was paid an amount of $25,000 to “publish” the “report”! I knew that email spamming was big business, but didn’t realize it’s so easy to earn 25 grands just by sending an image to random email addresses.

Purchase price of $32 a user

The bubble is swelling up again, and we have news about Google Inc. trying to buy YouTube.com for a price of $1.6 billion. According to the news article, that works out to $32 a user for the total userbase of approximately 50 million. So, essentially, Google is considering spending $32 on people like you and me to use their FREE service. Am I the only one who considers this ludicrous?

First off, YouTube is still not profitable. How is it going to profit when the only source of profit is text advertisements that no one likes to click? Let’s consider that Google would come out with a revolutionizing technology to embed ads within the videos for a minute. Wouldn’t that take away from the whole video sharing experience? These videos are generally very short. There’s no way you could possibly insert an ad in the middle. You could insert an ad at the beginning, but that is annoying, and I doubt a lot of people would enjoy that. Ads in the end are nothing more than the useless text ads/AdSense ads. Hence, the business plan for profitability is going to be a hell of an exercise. Of course, it would be dumb to imagine that Google would rely on just this service for being profitable. It is more of a mechanism to get users hooked to their web services, even if that means subsidizing it through other profitable ventures…like Adwords!

This brings me to the second point. So, Google is trying to either gain more users or not let go the current ones. Wait, there’s a problem here. Just how many users would stop flocking around Google just because they have to use a different website for sharing their videos?! How is the quality of Google’s core product – search, related to its capability to become the best video sharing website on the Internet? You ask, what about the challenge from other portals like Yahoo! and MSN? The simple answer is that none of their video sharing services is profitable either, and I strongly doubt they even consider themselves in the same league as Google when it comes to search traffic.

So, the fight is essentially about who gets the most overall Internet traffic. And, winning the fight makes sense only if you know how to make money out of it. I am not sure how that is going to pan out, nor am I thorough enough to predict the future based on past events, but it does sound stupid to me to be paying that kind of money for a user who isn’t even in the same continent.

I am not even going to talk about the legal and copyright issues surrounding any kind of media sharing service/community. All in all, this sounds a lot like eBay paying a ton of money for Skype.

I could also use a primer on valuation of money losing websites!

Greed

We’re all greedy. The difference lies in the degree, motivation, and area of our greed. Some people are greedy for success; some people are greedy for fame; some people are greedy for recognition; some people are greedy about money. There are a lot more things that make people greedy.

Nevertheless, I have found one common thread behind all sorts of greed. And, that is impatience. It is what makes us miserable in our own eyes, and in the eyes of everyone else who isn’t on the same level as us. Imagine this – you’re greedy for fame, and you try your best (including using unethical means) to collect all the fame you can get. In your eyes, you’re well justified, because, after all, you’re working hard for it. But, get this, if only you were patient and continued doing the right thing, you’d have gained fame nonetheless! It could have just been longer to achieve. Greed makes us lose sight of where we actually stand, and therefore makes us vulnerable.

Another example is money. One scenario is my parents giving me money for something. I could be greedy (not always bad) and impatient (always bad), and use various means like tantrums or arguments to get it, or I could do what I am doing, justify it, and get a lot more money from them than originally desired. Of course, I am now too grown up to be greedy about money with my family, or even friends, but the example holds true. In my experience, greed coupled with impatience only make us achieve less, albeit very quickly. We are delighted to get something so soon, but it actually reduces our gains compared to having waited a little longer.

I started thinking about this as I was imagining typical management follies committed by greedy managers. It all made sense.

Click here for a very nice description of the “personality dragons”.

I end this post with this very good dialog that takes place in a 2003 episode of South Park:

Randy: There’s more to life than profits
Indian Chief: Really, Like what?
Randy: You know, like slurpies and stuff.

It is upto you to interpret “slurpies and stuff”!