Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Perfect Holiday Gift!

Pre-order your copy today! Bailout Nation: How Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy

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Makes a great holiday gift!

Posted at 10:00 AM in Books | Permalink

Monday, February 18, 2008

Deviant Desires & Fetishes

Via Katherine Gates' book, Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex, comes this chart of various Fetishes. Compelling and bizarre:

click for jumbo flowchart


Posted at 09:13 AM in Books, Science | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Amazon Reader: Kindle

Kindle_three_quarter_view I never was interested in an electronic reader, but the new Amazon (AMZN) gadget looks quite intriguing: Amazon Kindle "Reader"

This thingie does have some attractive features: The ability to wirelessly grab books anywhere you are is way cool. But this is more than an eBook: It is a wireless device, grabing RSS feeds of blogs, newspaper and magazines. And, unlike Apple's iTunes, you own the books you buy, and if the device is lost or broken, you can re-download all of your Amazon purchases -- at no charge. (Apple's failure to do that is an inexcusable failing, and one of the reasons I hardly buy songs from ITMS).

Can Amazon generate the sort of frenzy reserved for Apple products? Perhaps -- earlier to today, Amazon as saying the Kindle was sold out. However, there are very few companies -- Apple, Harley Davidson (HDI), Tivo -- which have that sort of appeal or can generate that customer loyalty of that sort. I like Amazon, but its doubtful they will ever be in the rabid loyalty group.

Maybe they should tear a page from the Apple playbook -- after Christmas, slash the price 50% or more.

Why? At $150-200, this becomes a more compelling product. Amazon tells me that since the retail price also includes the wireless connectivity, this is already a $150 machine with $10 per month service for 2 years included. But would anyone really pay a $10/mo for the privilege of wirelessly purchasing books?

Some of the initial reviews of the doohickey were pretty good -- endorsements include Michael Lewis and Guy Kawasaki (below), and the NYT's David Pogue.

Criticisms: Version 1.0 has some obvious shortcomings: A few good observations (and one lousy one) via Scoble:

1. No ability to buy paper goods from Amazon through Kindle.
2. Usability sucks. Didn’t they think how people would hold this?
3. UI sucks. Menus? Did they hire someone from Microsoft?
4. No ability to send electronic goods to anyone else.
5. No social network. Why can't my friends see what I’m reading?
6. No touch screen.

The buying of regular Amazon products and send ebooks or other gifts are good suggestions. Social networking ("What I am reading") can easily be adapted to a widget.

In most software products (and this is an embedded piece of software), by version 2.0, the UI gets improved. Perhaps, the build quality/materials will get upgraded. Note that very few devices start out perfect, and even TiVo and the iPod got better over time.

Scoble's all wrong on the touchscreen: You don't really want to smudge the screen you are reading (Besides, I don't believe electronic ink works with touchscreen -- yet).

I would think that after working at Microsoft, Scoble would (heh-heh) know better than to buy 1.0 of anything.


Lets me make a suggestion to help Amazon out:

If Jeff Bezos wants to make the Amazon Kindle "Reader" a breakout iPod-like product, he has an easy solution: Get the price under $200, charge $5-10 per month for the service, and include 2 free books per month at that price. I would also think pre-loading the gadget with a few gratis books was an automatic. Home run!

I am not the road warrior I once was, but if I were, I would definitely have one of these . . .


Michael Lewis


Guy Kawasaki


Scoble Criticism:

General Overview:


Posted at 06:17 AM in Art & Design, Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, November 19, 2007

Woody Allen Quotes

As the poet said, 'Only God can make a tree' -- probably because it's so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.

His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy.

How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?

How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?

I am at two with nature.

I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying.

I tended to place my wife under a pedestal.

I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.

I'm astounded by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.

If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.

Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought-- particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.

It is impossible to experience one's death objectively and still carry a tune.

It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off.

It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better... while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.

Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all.

My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers.

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.

Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.

On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.

Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.

Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness.

The government is unresponsive to the needs of the little man. Under 5'7", it is impossible to get your congressman on the phone.

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?

Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room.

Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?

You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row Without Feathers (1976)

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
--Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

Death doesn't really worry me that much, I'm not frightened about it... I just don't want to be there when it happens.
Woody Allen, The Standup Years

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.
Without Feathers (1976)

It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.
Without Feathers (1976)

Posted at 06:49 AM in Books, Humor, Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Alan Greenspan on The Daily Show

A stunningly revealing interview that Jon Stewart conducted with Easy Al on the 9/18 “Daily Show."  It’s telling that the fin media and Street are ignoring Easy Al’s answers.

Easy Al admits to Jon Stewart:

1) Excess money causes inflation.
2) Fed easy credit favors stock market operators at the expense of savers. 
3) The Fed believes that the market trades more on perception of what the Fed is or will do instead of the actual policies. 
4) The Fed must make the market perceive that the system is sound.
5) The presence of the Fed guarantees there is no ‘free market’. 
6) He still can’t forecast the economy or whether there is a bubble or too much exuberance.

Here's a transcript of the interview (via Dummy Spots):

Stewart: (after Greenspan’s explanation that the market moves on expectations of the Fed move, not the fundamentals of it) So the Fed, or whoever’s leading it, if they wanted to could in fact “goof” on all of us...         

Greenspan: (smiles) You wouldn’t want to.

Stewart: When you say “Open Market,” I always wonder... Why do we have a Fed? Wouldn’t the market take care of interest rates and all that? Why do we have someone adjusting rates if we are a free market society? 

Greenspan: We didn’t need a central bank when we were on the Gold Standard . .  . [Conspiracy theorists note- the Fed was created 20 years BEFORE we decoupled from the Gold Std] . . .  people would buy and sell gold and the markets would do what the Fed does now. . . but by the 1930s most everybody in the  world decided that the Gold Standard was strangling the economy and universally the Gold Standard was need somebody out there or some mechanism to determine how much money is out there because the amount of money in an economy relates to the amount of inflation...

Stewart: So we’re not a free market then - there is an invisible...a “benevolent” hand that touches us...

Greenspan: Absolutely, you are quite correct. To the extent that there is a central bank governing the amount of money in the system, that is not a Free Market, and most people call it regulation.

Stewart: When you lower interest rates, it drives money to stocks and lowers the return people get on savings.      

Greenspan: Yes, indeed.

Stewart: So they’ve made a choice - “We would like to favor those who invest in the stock market and not those who [save]”... 

Greenspan: That’s the way it comes out, but that’s not the way we think about it.

Stewart: Explain that to me. It seems to me that we favor investment, but we don’t favor work. The vast majority of people work, they pay payroll taxes, and they use banks. And then there’s this whole other world of hedge funds and short betting... y’know, it seems like craps. And they keep saying, “No no no, don’t worry about it, it’s Free Market, that’s why we live in much bigger houses.” But it really is, it’s the Fed, or some other thing, no?

Greenspan: I think you’d better re-read my book. 

Stewart: Am I wrong that we penalize work by not making the choice to...

Greenspan: No, what a sound money system does is to stabilize the elements in it and reduce the uncertainty that people confront, and when people confront uncertainty they withdraw and it reduces economic activity...

Stewart: So it’s all about perception then. It’s about making people believe the system is sound. If the stock market is high, people feel confident in spending, and if it lowers, they feel less confident?

Greenspan: Well...uh...I think you have to realize, there are certain aspects of human nature, which  move exactly the way you defined it. The problem is, periodically we all go a little bit euphoric until we are assuming with confidence that everything is terrific, there will be no problems, nothing will ever happen, and then it dawns on us- NO!

Stewart: And then it goes the other way.   

Greenspan: Exactly.   

Stewart: Huge Fear.

Greenspan: I was telling my colleagues the other day...I’d been dealing with these big mathematical models for forecasting the economy, and I’m looking at what’s going on the last few weeks and I say, “Y’know, if I could figure out a way to determine whether or not people are more fearful, or changing to euphoric... I don’t need any of this other stuff. I could forecast the economy better than any way I know.  The trouble is, we can’t figure that out. I’ve been in the forecasting business for 50 years, and I’m no better than I ever was, and nobody else is either.”

Stewart: (Leans back in chair)...You just bummed the sh*t outta me!

And here's something I never thought I would type:  Alan Greenspan on The Daily Show

Video via Comedy Central

Posted at 06:43 AM in Books, Finance, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Book Interview from Hell

Jon Stewart torments Chris Matthews about his book:

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Friday, September 28, 2007

The Stuff of Thought

I'm always attracted to books that give insight into the investor's mind.

The newest outing from Harvard prof Steven Pinker looks to be just that sort of book: “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature” explores human cognition:

“The Stuff of Thought” explores the duality of human cognition: the modesty of its construction and the majesty of its constructive power. Pinker weaves this paradox from a series of opposing theories. Philosophical realists, for instance, think perception comes from reality. Idealists think it’s all in our heads. Pinker says it comes from reality but is organized and reorganized by the mind. That’s why you can look at the same thing in different ways.

Then there’s the clash between ancient and modern science. Aristotle thought projectiles continued through space because a force propelled them. He thought they eventually fell because Earth was their natural home. Modern science rejects both ideas. Pinker says Aristotle was right, not about projectiles but about how we understand them. We think in terms of force and purpose because our minds evolved in a biological world of force and purpose, not in an abstract world of vacuums and multiple gravities. Aristotle’s bad physics was actually good psychology.

How can we be sure the mind works this way? By studying its chief manifestation: language. Variations among verbs reflect our distinctions among physical processes. Nuances among nouns illustrate the alternate interpretations built into our most basic perceptions."

-from the NYTimes review

Fascinating concept, completely applicable to the Bull/Bear debate.

A great video of Steven Pinker at TED is below:

“The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature”

Posted at 06:34 AM in Books, Philosophy, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Most relationships in Hollywood fizzle after a couple months; Hollywood has been going steady with Philip K. Dick for 25 years. Tinseltown's appetite for his trademark paranoid-futuristic vibe is bottomless, and there seems to be no end to the number of his works that get the big-screen treatment.

The streak began with 1982's "Blade Runner" and included "Total Recall" (1990), "Screamers" (1996), "Minority Report" (2002), "Paycheck" (2003) and last year's "A Scanner Darkly." His work has also served as the basis for a play, an opera and a video game.

This Firday's release of "Next," (starring Nicolas Cage) is about a man who can glimpse the future.

"Adjustment Team"

Published: 1954

Riffing on Dick's favorite theme, the fungible nature of reality, real estate salesman Ed Fletcher discovers that the world is nothing more than a giant soundstage controlled by mysterious guardians. Hmm, perhaps Jim Carrey will star.

"Time Out of Joint"

Published: 1959

Ragle Gumm believes he's living in an idyllic town in 1959, but comes to realize he actually lives in the future and that his reality is a fake, created to shield citizens from the truth: that the Earth is engaged in a nuclear war with colonists on the moon.

"Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said"

Published: 1974

Jason Taverner, who lives in a futuristic police state, awakes in a hotel room to find his ID missing. After a few inquiries, he discovers that his entire identity has been erased and even his closest friends don't recognize him.


Published: 1981

After receiving communion in the form of a blast of laser light, Horselover Fat goes on a quest for God, and finds Him in the form of a 2-year-old named Sophia, who confirms that God is actually a reality-controlling satellite orbiting the Earth.

"Radio Free Albermuth"

Published: 1985

In an America ruled by a corrupt president, record executive Nicholas Brady begins receiving transmissions from a mysterious, all-powerful satellite that orders him to organize a movement to overthrow the government.

Posted at 06:33 AM in Books, Film, SciFi | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Dave Barry's 25 things I have learned in 50 years

Db50 I keep getting this emailed to me with different people's names on it. It was written by Dave Barry, and is in his book Dave Barry Turns 50.

25 things I have learned in 50 years
Dave Barry

1. The badness of a movie is directly proportional to the number of helicopters in it.

2. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight-saving time.

3. People who feel the need to tell you that they have an excellent sense of humor are telling you that they have no sense of humor.

4. The most valuable function performed by the federal government is entertainment.

5. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

6. A penny saved is worthless.

7. They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the Middle East. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the Sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorganisms living in the Middle East will be bitter enemies.

8. The most powerful force in the universe is gossip.

9. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.

10. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age 11.

11. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

12. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

13. There apparently exists, somewhere in Los Angeles, a computer that generates concepts for television sitcoms.  When TV executives need a new concept, they turn on this computer; after sorting through millions of possible plot premises, it spits out, "THREE QUIRKY BUT ATTRACTIVE YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING IN AN APARTMENT," and the executives turn this concept into a show.  The next time they need an idea, the computer spits out, "SIX QUIRKY BUT ATTRACTIVE YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING IN AN APARTMENT." Then the next time, it spits out, "FOUR QUIRKY BUT ATTRACTIVE YOUNG PEOPLE LIVING IN AN APARTMENT."  And so on.  We need to locate this computer and destroy it with hammers.

14. Nobody is normal.

15. At least once per year, some group of scientists will become very excited and announce that:

* The universe is even bigger than they thought!
* There are even more subatomic particles than they thought!
* Whatever they announced last year about global warming is wrong.

16. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings."

17. The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

18. The value of advertising is that it tells you the exact opposite of what the advertiser actually thinks. For example:

* If the advertisement says "This is not your father's Oldsmobile," the advertiser is desperately concerned that this Oldsmobile, like all other Oldsmobiles, appeals primarily to old farts like your father.
* If Coke and Pepsi spend billions of dollars to convince you that there are significant differences between these two products, both companies realize that Pepsi and Coke are virtually identical.
* If the advertisement strongly suggests that Nike shoes enable athletes to perform amazing feats, Nike wants you to disregard the fact that shoe brand is unrelated to athletic ability.
* If Budweiser runs an elaborate advertising campaign stressing the critical importance of a beer's "born-on" date, Budweiser knows this factor has virtually nothing to do with how good a beer tastes.

19. If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

20. You should not confuse your career with your life.

21. A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

22. No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

23. When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

24. Your friends love you anyway.

25. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

-- Dave Barry

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Art of The Well-Crafted Repartee

Sadly, we are losing The Art of The Well-Crafted Repartee.   

Here are some examples of classic repartees from a time gone by:

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."
-Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
-Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
-Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
-Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it."
-Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
-Abraham Lincoln

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
-Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."
-Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends."
-Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... If you have one."
-George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... If there is one."
-Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here."
-Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator."
-John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial."
-Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others."
-Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
-Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy."
-Walter Kerr

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure."
-Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt."
-Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge."
-Thomas Brackett Reed

"He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them."
-James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him."
-Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?"
-Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."
-Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
-Oscar Wilde

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
-Billy Wilder

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... For support rather than illumination."
-Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

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