Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Gimli?

Ancient Dwarf Bones Found

"They better bury me when they're through!"

Handheld PDA Market Slowly Dying

Well, this isn't exactly news. The PDA (Personal Digital Assistants, like Palms) are slowly being rolled into cell phones, creating a new category of that device called "smart phones". The functionality these PDAs and Smartphones provide is called Personal Information Management (PIM):
Due to intense competition from converged mobile devices that perform basic personal information management (PIM) tasks, the worldwide market for handheld devices saw its third successive quarter of year-over-year decline in Q3, according to the latest research from Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.
As with any market that is being cannibalized, consolidation has started and no-name brands are entering from the bottom:
Consolidation in the handheld device market continued with the exit of previous top vendors Sony and Toshiba while lower barriers to entry have enabled companies with established core competencies in electronics design and manufacturing to enter the market and quickly gain share, IDC pointed out, even though it comes at the expense of margins in the face of a flat or slightly shrinking market.
In the end this functionality will be carried by cellphones and this segment will become a niche market dominated by only a few low-cost players.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Taking Drink Orders Now for Election Night Party

I've decided to hold an election night party next week, which will hopefully turn into a victory celebration. So far I have RSVPs from bloggers XRLQ, Sneakeasy, and Rorschach. In addition I have about half a dozen non-bloggers showing up. The invite requires you to be a Bush supporter, although not a republican, as I have one Democrat for Bush coming. Like Zell, she feels "betrayed by her party".

We will, of course, be watching Fox for the evening's returns in my Fabulous New Back YardTM (bring a jacket). WIFI is available for anyone who wants to live blog the event or the returns.

Anyway, I have started to put together a drink list for the evening. If you have a request or suggestion to add to this list, let me know:
Green With Envy Apple Martini
If you think libs are upset now, just wait until a second Bush term. They’ll be green with envy with republicans staying in power another four years, and what better way to piss them off even further than toasting a Bush victory with a cool mix of Kettle One vodka and Apple Pucker.

Rumsfeld and Coke
Large amounts of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum with just a little bit of coke, for that extra caffeine jolt for watching the returns. A drink Rummy himself recommends after doing battle with the press.

Gin and Tax Cut Tonic
Tax cuts are the tonic to any recession, and this drink will pull you out any depression you may be feeling. Made with Tanqueray, the only gin served in the Director’s household.

Comrade Vodka Tonic
Workers of the World will rejoice if Comrade Kerry gets elected, so if returns aren’t looking good, you can join the proletariat and start drinking the heavy amounts of vodka you are going to need for the next four years. Made with Chopin potato vodka for an authentic taste.

You Don’t Know Jack
Dems know little and Kerry even less. So feel free to toast his ignorance with a Jack and coke, Jack on Ice, or Jack neat.

Patriot Sam Adams
What better beer to have during the election than one named after a Founding Father?

Undocumented Coronas
Caught illegally north of the border, these beers aren’t getting the right to vote in this election.

Liberal Wine
Hopefully what we’ll be hearing from the left for the next four years. Red and white available.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Cheap Lighters of the World

Through my travels, I found that I have accidently started a Cheap Lighters of the World collection. I have found that cheap lighters are one of those impulse buys that I have as I go through bazaars and souvenir shops. After all, at $10 or less, I always say "Why not?". Now that I have a collection going I will now need to actually look for these as I travel.

Note that there are serious collectors that spend thousands of dollars to build their collection of expensive, unique lighters, so while my collection is not elegant or fancy, it is at least easy on the budget.

Here is what I have so far:


Item: Soviet Tank Lighter
Type: Naptha (fluid)
Bought In: Lviv, Ukraine
Cost: 50 Hryvnia (about $10)

Perhaps this belonged to a Soviet tank commander? It would definitely make a good story as you lit up that capitalist cigar and bragged how you helped Reagan defeat the Evil Empire. However, as I inspected the lighter in the open air bazaar in Lviv, I noticed the bottom:



What they did is took an American Zippo lighter and glued on Soviet insignia, which were being sold all over the place in the bazaar. There were a glut of these items after the fall of the Soviet Union when soldiers sold whatever they had on them for hard currency. For only a few bucks you could buy enough military ribbons at the bazaar to make yourself a full Soviet general, although Hero of the Soviet Union and The Order of Lenin cost a few extra dollars.

Anyway, although a glue-together, I still thought it was cool, and for ten bucks - what the average monthly salary was when I was over there in 2000 - I said, why not?



Item: Japanese Disco Lighter
Type: Butane Torch
Bought In: Tokyo (Akihabara)
Cost: 600 Yen (about $6)
The neat thing about this lighter is that when it is opened, lights on the side of the thing go on and off in rapid succession, like if the jukebox were playing. The first thing people say when they see this thing in action is "That is sooooooo Japanese."



Item: Korean Traditional Scene Lighter
Type: Naptha (fluid)
Bought In: Seoul
Cost: 10,000 Won (about $9)
When I first saw this, I thought this was another "glue-on" like my Soviet Lighter. Turns out this is from a Korea company called ING that apparently does knock-offs of Zippo. And instead of this scene just being glued on, it is built into the lighter, with a clear coat on top, so it came out of the factory this way.


These are the only ones so far, although I have been to a lot more countries. I will now have to keep an eye out for cheap lighters when I travel. My next potential buy is in China, where I will probably be going some time in the next year or two. I am hoping I can find one with Mao on it since they have Mao everything there.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Another Stupid, but Relevant, Online Test

I haven't done one of these in a while, so I am due. This one seems accurate, except for the fact that I am not a chick:




You Are a Life Blogger!



Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.




Hat Tip: Coffee with CrankyBeach

Friday, October 22, 2004

Potential Company Themes for Next Year

My company's internal email system automatically puts in a little yearly, rhyming theme onto the heading of our email next to our name. This year, the theme was "Together we Soar in 2004", last year was "Customer was Key in 2003".

As we get towards the end of this year, it looks like it is time to pick a new one for next year:
It's time to submit your entries for (My Company's) 2005 slogan. The slogan becomes part of our e-mail heading and is published internally throughout (My Company). The purpose of the slogan is to exemplify a theme by which the organization will govern itself in the year.
Based on how the tech segment is currently doing, my candidates are:
1. Staying Alive in 2005
2. Let's Try Not to Die in 2005
3. If We Don't Fix, We Won't Make it to 2006

Intel Chased Out of a New Market?

The largest chip company in the world can't make it in a market currently dominated by also-rans:
Intel has scrapped plans to offer a liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) chip for big flat screen displays, a spokeswoman for the company has confirmed.

The chip giant had announced its plans to enter the big screen television market amid much fanfare at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

But those plans appeared to hit a bump in August when the company said the chips would not be available in time to bring down prices of big screen televisions during this year's holiday shopping season.
Intel actually has a spotty track record in mass-market, commodity driven markets. The company has grown fat on its defacto monopoly on PC processors, and does well in flash memory, but it is hard to point to another segment where Intel leads, and there are several other markets where they were chased out (image sensors being one of them). I guess they just aren't paranoid enough.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

They Get Paid to Do This?

File under "duh": Analysis: 8 States May Decide Election

Let's see, that would be 16% of all the states and not exactly a big deal. It's actually a lot larger than the last election when one state decided the election.

I expect to see a lot more stupid headlines like this for the next three weeks. I will be so glad when this election is over.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Sorry GW, the Astros Come First

This displaced Houstonian will be watching the Astros play in their first NLCS game tonight instead of the debate.

I was a long-suffering Astros fan in the 80s when Ryan and Scott were doing some incredible pitching, but the team could never muster enough offense to win major games, so they kept losing in the post-season. I stopped watching them altogether when I moved away in the late 90s, but am suddenly excited about their prospects.

I have a "single reception" Tivo, so I can watch one thing and record another at the same time. Maybe I'll head out to a sports bar and the let the Tivo record the debate...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Good Question

If you could do something where you were guaranteed not to fail, what would you do?

I recently found out my corporate library has a whole shelf of motivational books and tapes, so I checked out a tape series for my short drives about town. My guess is that this material is mainly for our sales force since sales people are into this sort of thing.

I have read these sort of books before, and, in fact, had one of the grandfathers of this genre, Napoleon Hill, as required reading in business school. These books have a lot of "ra-ra" combined with large doses of psycho-babble, but every one of these books bring up a couple of questions, phrases, or suggestions that hit you between the eyes and really make you think.

I am five tapes into this six tape series by Tony Roberts (no smirking out there) and found a few good nuggets like the question above. The question struck me since I do think we all make compromises and decisions based on what we think we can't do rather than on what we want to do. I'm still thinking on this question since I haven't answered it yet. But the answer isn't what I'm doing now.

Overall, I find that the benefits of these sort of books outweigh the psycho-babble you have to wade through, but others have different experiences, ranging from cult-like devotion to outright rejection. My reaction is the middle ground, taking material from those sections that I find beneficial, but without taking it too seriously.

I've Devolved

While some major blogs like here and here have commended positively about the new TTLB Ecosystem, I seem to have taken a step backwards and devolved a rank. However, since the site is still having "problems" with loadings and what-not, I can't view my site statistics to see if there are simply more blogs in the ecosystem that have knocked me down a rank, or if the new counting method lowered my statistics.

Not that it really matters, except I thought my killer whale was much cooler than my fighting kangaroo.

Update: Well, I've evolved back to a mammal again after only a week. I must be on the cusp. I guess I better write some kick-ass articles so you people out there will link to them.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Is $200,000 a Year "Rich"?

Is $200K a year rich? There aren't a whole lot of people who earn this much, but there are a far larger number of people who make $100,000 a year, and if two of these people are married, they are now in the cross hairs of higher taxes.

So instead of a tax on the "rich", we can call this the "married middle manager tax".

If we look at household income instead of individual salaries, this represents the top 2% of households:




That might not sound like a lot of households, but if we look at the current tax burden in the U.S., it isn't like those top percentages aren't pulling their weight (this is by income, not household income, but should be proportional):




The key thing to keep in mind is that even if the tax proposal doesn't hurt you, taxes have a way of expanding to hit everyone. Consider:
o When income taxes were first introduced, it was only meant for the "rich"

o The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was introduced as a tax on the "rich", but will hit nearly 17 million "rich" people by 2010 if it is not modified or repealed.

o Back-door taxes are enacted yearly through phase-outs of deductions and credits. This is the favorite way to increase taxes without actually changing the rates and gets little notice from taxpayers (all those "middle class" goodies like the child tax credit, college debt interest deduction and others start phasing out at a whopping $50K of income).
The basic premise of people who want to raise taxes is to raise taxes on "anyone who makes more than I do." The problem with this sort of class warfare is that it has a tendency to turn on the very people who enacted it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

I Guess It Isn't Too Late to Send Your Party Money

As we enter the three week stretch for the election, I think that all the money for election spending is already earmarked. There are still mailings, phone banks, and other activities, but the time it takes to just process donations means that any money sent in now would probably come in after the election - a donation now really won't help things one way or another.

Of course both parties will likely have debts to pay off after the election, so any money will help, but the average voter is probably going to be tapering off his donation efforts as the campaign enters the home stretch.

The RNC apparently is aware of this notion and is doing something about it. I received a request for a donation today in the mail with a FedEx return envelope. Everything is there - a FedEx Airbill with the address made out to the RNC and an official FedEx Envelope.



I guess this flier conveys a higher sense of urgency than "please donate on-line today!", since on-line is definitely the fastest way to get money into your favorite campaign.

The other interesting thing about campaign requests is who "sends" the letters. On the RNC side I have received requests from George, Laura, Dick and various non-elected RNC officials. This one is from Dick, so he obviously dashed this off to me after he crushed the Boy Wonder in the debate.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Selling Coffee in a Tea Culture

Do you remember your first time at a Starbucks? For me it was 1989 when a friend took me to one in Chicago right off Lake Shore Drive. I never heard of the place before, but they had these various coffee drinks that my friend had to explain to me: latte, cappuccino, Americano. Of course I had heard of these drinks before, I just didn't know that the difference was between them since I had never had one.

Fast forward 15 years and there isn't anyone in the U.S. who doesn't know what a cappacino, latte, or decaf, low-fat, one-pump, no-foam mocha is. The U.S. really has become a coffee culture, inventing whole new drinks like frappacinos.

The problem Starbucks has as it expands into cultures that have been traditionally tea based is teaching their prospective clients the ins-and-outs of a complicated drink list that Americans picked up over a multi-year period. This is why in some Asia countries you see these "little" helpful roadmaps for Starbuck's product offerings:



If you can't read it, this eight foot sign has a flow chart for hot beverages on the top half and one for cold beverages on the bottom half.

While Starbucks has been wildly successful in Japan, the coffee culture doesn't seem to have taken as deep a root in other Asian countries where I have seen them: Korea and Taiwan (they are in other countries over here, I just haven't been to them yet). They probably just need a little more time to get established in these traditionally tea-drinking countries, but for now their stores are definitely good places to meet other traveling Americans.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Dynamic Korea, Friendly Seoul

One of the amusing things to observe while traveling in Asia is the use of the English language. I don't mean those whose second (or third) language is English, but official government and business documents that have presumably gone through a professional interpreter.

Let's take the greeting above that welcomes visitors to Incheon airport. There is really nothing wrong with the phrase, and the meaning is perfectly understandable. What makes this banner and a lot of Asian English interesting is the word pairings and phrases that a native English speaker would not normally put together. It's these little word combos that make these signs amusing since maybe these word pairing should be used by native speakers (My favorite is the use of "let's" in Japan with a noun - for example "Let's coffee!").

There is, in fact, an entire web site called Engrish.com dedicated to these observations in Japan, where they are much more common, probably because businesses there try to use English much more than other Asian countries.

Sometimes the use of English is just plain wrong, which points to how hard the English language really is - a fact lost on most native speakers. For example, a friend and I saw someone in Japan wearing a t-shirt that said "I am Bisexual" We got the nerve to ask him if he knew what his shirt meant:

"Yes! Bi means two. Sexy means (he flexed his arms). So bisexual means twice as sexy!"

We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. "You're right!" we said. Bi really does mean two, so this does seem to be a reasonable translation of the word. We saw no need to burst his bubble.

Friday, October 01, 2004

AM, PM, What's the Difference?

So I am relaxing Friday evening at home before my Saturday departure BACK to Korea for yet another customer meeting (I just got back from Korea a week ago). I had set my travel itinerary on my wife's desk and she was just taking a look at it.

"You're leaving in four hours?"

"What?"

"It says here that you're leaving at 12:30am."

"No. I am leaving at 12:30pm tomorrow afternoon, just like I did for my last trip."

"That's not what it says here"

"That must be a typo. Let me see that." My stomach starting dropping. I knew that Korean Air did have a midnight departure flight, and the itinerary did say 12:30am. "How can this be?"

I called KAL and confirmed that I was leaving in four hours. I also found out that there was not a single seat left on any of the four LAX-Seoul flights on Saturday day. Not one. If I were going to make it to Korea for my Monday morning meeting, I had to start packing.

"You're right," I said to my wife. "I told my admin to put me on the same itinerary as last time, and when I saw 12:30, I just assumed it was the same 12:30 AFTERNOON flight as I was on just two weeks ago. I guess I should have checked more closely."

My wife gave me the "how can someone so smart be so stupid" look. "I saved your ass."

She's right. Missing the meeting would not have been that big a deal, but I would have looked pretty stupid if I had to tell my management that I missed my flight due to an am/pm mix-up. To my defense, if the travel agency had used 24-hour time like every other ticket I ever had it would have said 0:30, which would have got my attention.

At any rate, that is why I am sitting here at 11:00pm in the LAX KAL lounge.

Funny thing about midnight flights at LAX - car traffic is incredibly light getting here, but the international terminal is just jammed packed. Every single country must have a red-eye leaving around midnight from this place.

Happy Bloggaversary to Me

So today is my 1 year blogging anniversary. This little post started it all:
Welcome to my blog. Commentary on anything that catches my eye.
365 days and 495 posts later here I am.

I started this blog out of sheer boredom at work. I really was a "window manager", spending my time looking out the window. I stumbled across the blogosphere some six months earlier and spent a lot of time reading blogs throughout the day, but I thought I could do that. I looked into how to set up a blog and received tips and encouragement from Techdirt and Jim Carson (Jim actually volunteered to host me, but I decided not to bother him and used Blogger - which has had its own share of problems over the past year).

The blog has ended up being more "personal observations" than either business or political analysis, which I thought it would be. There are simply better writers with more experience in both these areas, but I hope I add relevant points to each of these topics when I decide to comment on them.

So a year later is there a favorite post? I have had some serious posts, thoughtful posts, humorous posts, and plenty of stupid ones. I have had people tell me off-line about posts that they particularly liked, but the most positive feedback I have received was the explanation of my organizational structure from my previous company, which definitely goes into the humor column.