Mixtape for Matte's Birthday, from The Festival of Ideas on Saturday: We Can't Enjoy Ourselves
Posted by amol
Listening to Morrissey's favorites, part 1/13
I guess Moz has some Irish folk affinities in his bones for this dude. But I don't really like him - correction, I don't like this album at all. I guess you can't say Moz isn't loyal to his Irish blood though.
He has the distinction of being only 2 of the 13 that are post 2000 releases.Posted by amol -->
Sony really took a beating this last 7 days - the reading list
Engadget "another mylo"
Gizmodo absolutely takes Sony apart at the joints and re-assembles
And the WSJ did a lengthy discussions on this PSP Phone thing with the headline "revival or SOS?"Posted by amol -->
Why the Great Depression happened and why we are better off now
Lords of Finance got all kinds of praise last year, so I read it, and it's good. Why did the Great Depression happen? Because the West's collectively poor knowledge of economics around the time screwed up badly. There are these lovely profiles of the guys who ran the US, UK, French, and German central banks, and you get a sense for who these powermasters were (and how they are similar to today's) but also how they can come to be so wise yet dumb/wrong (again, today has these failings too).
What did we do wrong?
1. After WW1, we totally annihilated Germany economically and created insanely huge reparations bills that would keep Germany bankrupt and furious forever. But the US specifically kept the UK and France encumbered under insane war debts. And nobody thought about 'rebuilding Europe'.
2. Everyone desperately clung to the gold standard. Which made it hard to manage the local economies (Germany had inflation problems, UK had deflation, US had a runaway stock market). Folks didn't realize it was better to have a free interest rate policy than to have a straightjacket against inflation.
3. US & all mishandled the 1920s stock market boom and mishandled the European deflation
4. Then the US, UK, Germany all mishandled the post 1929 bank collapses
Who were the villains? Basically, it was the conventional economic wisdom of the era that was wrong.
But Woodrow Wilson was also a naif and bungled the post-WW1 peace. And the ultra-conservative and backwards French leader, Clemenceau, ensured the peace would be really unbalanced.
The heroes? Maynard Keynes basically saw it all first and best, and if only we had listened to him... After WW2, we basically built the system of his dreams
It certainly an unusual confluence of disasters -- currency crisis, bank runs, stock bubble, and economic downturn all at once.
Are we better off now? Well we learned all kinds of Keynesian lessons and the energetic leaders of the 1990s and 2000s actually confronted many of these one off: the East Asian/Russian panic of 1998, the Mexico currency crisis of 1994, the stock bubble burst of 2000, the bank crisis of 2009. Rubin, Summers, Greenspan, Bernanke, Geithner have basically saved the day over the last 2 decades.
Though then, as now, these leaders are part of the run up to the problems, and often the conventional wisdom is the biggest weakness.
If this topic is at all interesting, you really have to read Keynes himself (free on Kindle) and possibly the more political book about the 1919 peace, and even Galbraith's book about the 1929 crash and aftermath.
Posted by amol
How Fiction Works, and how literary criticism ought to go
I read this excellent book this past week and now I can say I genuinely appreciate literary criticism, and I think I'll enjoy all the fiction I read more in the future.
The only other writer who I have ever read that so successfully modeled the critic's role in analysis of texts and objects was Roland Barthes. There are lots of great critics of course, but they have often been too academic for me to follow. I've read a lot of art criticism and I can follow some of that stuff. But when Lacanian analysis or theory of deconstruction is being debated in philosophy, I never understand it. I just don't know literary criticism or novels, so all the "theory of" has always made little sense. I didn't have the rooting in what the core debates were. Now I kind of do.
But what a great book -- how narration works, characters, detail, the realism of fiction.Posted by amol -->
iPhone to kill Garmin? No way
Reviews like this of the navigation app selection for smartphones should make people re-think the whole "smartphones will replace GPS" thing.
Rather, this looks like yet another case like cameras -- "fast and casual" vs. "when it has to work great".
Cell phone cameras are great and you take more pictures as a result. They are OK at best but hey, you have one.
But they suck for parties or travel or most occasions when you would normally "have a camera" -- and luckily a real camera is great as a camera. Better in low light, has a flash, more data stored, actual focus, etc.
In fact, people like me have two cameras -- a point and shoot and an SLR. Because sometimes I want to take really great pictures, and sometimes merely OK pictures.
So what about maps? Well, maps for your cell phone are totally cool. Handy no end. I love Google Maps on every phone where I've used it (usually a smartphone - not yet ready for feature phones I guess).
But it's absurd to try to turn your smartphone into a car-mounted GPS. Apparently you need to drop about $200 on software plus mounts anyway -- which more than a lovely Garmin would cost you. And don't forget that it will still suck -- crashy app, limited map database, and horrible battery life impact (how will you call for directions when your map app crashes?).
Industry folks tell me about 10% of US cars have navigation built into them at this point. That's amazingly low -- every car should have this stuff in there; it's totally obvious. So here's my prediction: Garmin/TomTom gear gets cheaper and cheaper, it's integrated into every single last car either at factory or aftermarket in the next 15 years, and they sell about 600 million more units in the US + 1,500 million more ex-US (assuming replacement every 5 years). Assuming they earn about $20/unit (which is about 1/5th of what they earn per unit today), that's about $45 billion of profit between them, or about $3 bn per year for a long time.
Oh yeah, copy-and-paste these issues for ebook readers (Kindle vs. Kindle App vs. regular books) and even for our humble mobile messenger, Peek.Posted by amol -->
Dixon was right about Twitter ecosystem...for now!
Chris Dixon was right -- Twitter is irritating its ecosystem partners with today's announcement of its list feature. I'm sure this is bad for ExecTweets and WeFollow etc etc.
But I think he's wrong that Twitter killed RSS -- b/c RSS was already sucking wind. We all knew about feed fatigue a year ago, and nobody solved it. So now people are moving on.Posted by amol -->
My unbagging on Endgadget
Check out what's-in-my-bag on EngadgetPosted by amol -->
What's driving real estate now
Very good WSJ piece in the longer entry below. Basically, overclaims the point ("High end is still toast") but correctly builds on the thesis that "the lower end of the real estate market is getting more support and rebounding faster" -- FHA, jumbo loan cutoff, changing purchasing appetites, the first-time homebuyer credit (and the fact that first-time homebuyer continue getting married/having kids in all economies).
High-End Homes Frozen Out of Budding Housing Rebound
By NICK TIMIRAOS and JAMES R. HAGERTY
KENILWORTH, Ill. -- Housing is fast dividing into two markets: Sales of low- and moderately priced homes are picking up and values have stopped falling in some parts of the nation. But on the upper end, sales remain mired in a deep slump and price declines are expected to accelerate.
Signs of the divide are visible across the country, including in suburban Chicago. In middle-class Schaumburg, Ill., which had a median income of $65,000 in 2007, sales were up 41% in June from the depressed level of a year earlier and bidding wars have broken out on some properties. "I can't even tell you how many I've been in over the last two months," says Joe Stacy, a local real-estate agent.
But 25 miles away in the affluent town of Kenilworth, with a median income of $230,000, home sales have stalled. While there are 65 homes on the market, just 13 have sold this year. "We're extremely oversupplied," says Sherry Molitor, a local real-estate agent. "Sellers are struggling to realize that we're back to 2001-02 prices."
The divide between the mass market and the high-end -- generally defined as homes that cost above $750,000 -- partly reflects the effects of Washington's housing-rescue plan, which is producing winners and losers.
Policymakers have helped spur sales of lower-priced homes by offering first-time buyers a federal tax credit of as much as $8,000, by driving mortgage rates to near 50-year lows and by expanding the mission of the Federal Housing Administration, which will guarantee mortgages for consumers buying homes with down payments as low as 3.5%.
Sales at the lower end are also helped by the large number of foreclosed homes that banks have dumped at fire-sale prices, which has pulled down values of neighboring houses and sparked bargain hunting. Prices in both Las Vegas and Phoenix are down more than 50% from their peaks of several years ago, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index.
Home prices tracked by that index rose 0.5% for the three-month period ending in May versus the three-month period ending in April, the first monthly gain in nearly three years. Prices have shown signs of stabilizing in recent months as the share of distressed homes, including those that sell out of foreclosure, falls from highs reached earlier this year.
Low prices have ignited a home-buying boom in some markets. In June, sales of single-family homes in the Las Vegas area were up about 70% from a year earlier.
For affluent buyers, it's a different story.
Housing's Highs and Lows
See declines in the Case-Shiller home price index divided by the bottom, middle and top third of select housing markets.
The $8,000 tax credit for first-time homeowners phases out for single buyers whose incomes exceed $75,000, or married couples earning more than $150,000. Low-interest-rate mortgages backed by the FHA and government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are only available on loans below limits set by Congress. Last year, Congress increased those limits to $417,000 in most markets, and to as high as $729,750 in certain high-cost markets, including parts of Hawaii, California, New York and Washington, D.C.
Mortgages for amounts that exceed those limits are called "jumbo" mortgages, and face higher interest rates. Last week, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage below the limits was 5.42% compared with 6.33% for jumbos, according to HSH Associates, a financial publisher.
Extremely wealthy people may not need a mortgage. But buyers who take mortgages for expensive homes generally face higher rates and tighter lending standards. Most banks that offer jumbo mortgages are generally requiring down payments of 20% to 30% or more, knocking out potential buyers who don't have much equity in their homes and have seen retirement savings fall.
While subprime mortgages sparked the first round of housing problems two years ago, now "troubles are lurking further up the food chain," says Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at MFR Inc. White-collar job losses have accelerated while more adjustable-rate loans to prime borrowers are resetting to higher payments. "You put all that together, it leads me to believe that the next leg down on home prices is going to come from the top," he says.
[High-End Homes Miss Out on Rebound]
To be sure, the affluent housing market is substantially smaller than the mass market. Sales of existing homes priced over $750,000 accounted for 2.3% of all sales in the first quarter of this year, compared to 4.4% of the housing market in 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Still, the distress in high-end market has implications for consumer spending: the top 10% of U.S. households in terms of income accounted for 23% of consumer spending in 2007, according to government statistics. As those households watch their home equity evaporate, they are more reluctant to spend on housing upgrades or other items.
Inventory of expensive homes is rising. Overall, the inventory of unsold homes in June was enough to last 9.4 months at the current selling pace, down from 11 months a year ago, according to the NAR. But the supply of unsold homes priced above $750,000 swelled to around 17 months in June, up from a 14.5-month backlog one year ago. A recent forecast by analysts at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. said it would take until at least 2012 for the expensive-home market to recover and that peak-to-trough declines could surpass 60%, compared to 40% for the rest of the market.
Defaults are rising, too. Among prime mortgages, jumbo mortgages are now leading delinquencies and defaults and are the fastest-rising category for defaults of all types of mortgages. The rate of 60-day delinquencies on prime-jumbo mortgages jumped to 7.4% in May, from 4.5% in November, according to First American CoreLogic. By comparison, 60-day delinquencies on prime-conforming loans reached 4.9% in May, from 3.6% in November.
A recent survey by the NAR found nearly three-quarters of real-estate agents said buyers were purchasing smaller houses due to tighter credit requirements. "We're in a 'trade-down' environment for the first time since the 1930s," says Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
High-end homes are also being hurt by changing perceptions about how much home one should own. For years, people were encouraged to buy the most expensive home they could afford because there would be a payoff when it was time to sell. But buyers can't count on that any longer.
Having lost large amounts in the stock market and on real estate, "a lot of people are licking their wounds and hoarding their cash," says Sally Daley, a real-estate broker who sells luxury homes in Vero Beach, Fla. She says many customers are asking, "Do I really need this big a house?"
[High-End Homes Frozen Out of Budding Housing Rebound]
Even families who can come up with the hefty down payments are buying more conservatively. Gabi Marks, an attorney, and her husband Don, an engineer, recently sold their condo and bought a five-bedroom Victorian house in San Francisco to accommodate their growing family.
They paid about $1.58 million, staying below their self-imposed ceiling of $1.8 million. "We made sure we had a sufficient [financial] cushion," Ms. Marks says. They made a down payment of about 30%, partly to qualify for a lower-cost loan, and plan to pay down a big chunk of debt as soon as the sale of their condo is completed.
When the foreclosure crisis began two years ago, there were few signs the high-end market would suffer. "It's God's country," Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, told an audience of real-estate agents in 2007. "When is the 30% decline in Marin County's market going to happen? Not in my lifetime."
Home prices there have fallen by 21% from their 2006 peak, according to Zillow.com, a real-estate Web site. Ms. Appleton-Young now says there's "no doubt that the high-end housing prices have adjusted and will continue to adjust."
Few in Kenilworth ever expected the price declines that began in markets decimated by subprime loans and house-flippers would ever reach their streets, which are lined with Tudor mansions, manicured lawns, and for-sale signs.
The community, which has a bowling league and a sailing club and is consistently named as one of America's wealthiest towns, was developed as a planned community 100 years ago on land purchased by Chicago retailer Joseph Sears, son of the founder of Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Today, the neighborhood is a microcosm of other high-end housing markets across the country, where homeowners are frozen in their homes, postponing relocations or a planned downsizing because they aren't willing to cut prices.
Those who do drop their prices risk raising the ire of the neighbors. Peter Cummins, a local real-estate agent who lives in Kenilworth, caught some flak from residents in June after chopping the asking price of a six-bedroom home to about $1.6 million from nearly $2 million. To draw attention to the cut, he produced a flier reading: "Hey Chicken Little, is that the sky falling in Kenilworth?"
Some residents are angry because policymakers in Washington specifically excluded jumbo mortgages in housing-rescue plans. "We're considered either rich people who don't deserve help or deadbeats who bought too much house," says Kelli Kobor, a 42-year-old substitute high school teacher. "I don't see Washington prepared to deal with us."
Five years ago, she and her husband bought their five-bedroom Dutch colonial in Kenilworth for $1.3 million with a 25% down payment using equity they'd built up from two previous homes. Her husband lost his job in December and took a new one that pays much less, making it harder to make mortgage payments. Ms. Kobor says she missed her first mortgage payment in the spring but is now current.
In July, her mortgage servicer agreed to temporarily lower her interest rate for six months, and the unpaid balance will go into a balloon payment due when the loan is paid off.
Like many young families that move to Kenilworth, Ms. Kobor and her husband were drawn by the town's top-rated public elementary school, which is just a few steps from their home, and the tight-knit community of 800 households.
Local real-estate agents have told her she'd be lucky to sell the house for the $960,000 that's owed on their jumbo adjustable-rate mortgage. Her lender, Thornburg Mortgage, specialized in prime jumbo loans and filed for protection from creditors under bankruptcy law in March.
Unable to sell his home in nearby Winnetka, Ill., Brad Davis, a 43-year-old attorney, has commuted to Washington, D.C., for the past year after taking a new job there.
* Deals: Did Pulte Call the Housing Market Bottom?
He recently cut the asking price on his four-bedroom brick Tudor by $100,000 to around $1.4 million after it didn't draw any offers in eight months on the market. Most potential buyers have a big obstacle: They would first have to find buyers for their own homes.
"You're not sure if it's a price issue or if there just aren't any buyers," says Mr. Davis, a father of two young children. While he says he doesn't mind the long commute, "not being able to come home every night is the hard part."
Others have pulled their million-dollar homes off the market and are offering them as rentals. Susan Forney rented her six-bedroom Georgian colonial in Northfield, Ill., for $7,500 a month after it didn't sell.
Over the past two years, she reduced the price by $1 million to $2.25 million, but her only offer came in at $1.6 million, about $100,000 less than she paid for the house in 1999.
Ms. Kobor says it is ironic that two of the most powerful men in the country know of these problems first hand.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decided to rent out his Larchmont, N.Y., home after it failed to sell and President Obama purchased a $1.65 million Chicago home with a $1.3 million jumbo mortgage in 2005, at the height of the real-estate bubble. The property is now worth $1.2 million, according to an estimate by Zillow.
The Treasury Department and the White House declined to comment.Posted by amol -->
Thoughts on the Pre
Been checking out the Palm Pre
Reactions from the first 1 minute
- cool box
- nice small gadget
- at the store, highly commodified. SO MANY touch, riverstone gadgets
- plastic was cheapy
- keys are too small
- amazingly cool startup video and music
- touch isn't sensitive enough
- keys are too soft
- Best Buy is a good place to buy it
- cheapest plan is 70 bucks plus taxes. DRAT
From first 60 minutes
- email isn't easy to set up!!!! mine still doesn't work (4 hours later)
- sync was easy
- 3G is really fast
- charged out of the box, neat
- sluggish touch response
- sluggish software response
- cheap free case inside
- AWESOME charger setup inside
- annoying charger port cover on the side. So annoying
- no apps...makes it kind of dull actually. It's just email and web. Whoop Dee Doo.
More later (when I get it working...)
McNamara's lifetime war
“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.”
“What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked. He found the question impossible to answer.Posted by amol -->
Managing conflict, challenging norms, and bringing the confrontation with reality
This Ronald Heifetz guy is great.
I've been reading a bunch of interviews and writings of his today.
Extended interview after his first book's publication - this is the game plan. Hugely valuable.Posted by amol -->
Creating and leading change is risky business
The next book I'm going to read is by Heifetz -- Staying Alive.
According to Heifetz and Linsky, "To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear -- their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking -- with more to offer perhaps than a possibility. Moreover, leadership often means exceeding the authority you are given to tackle the challenge at hand. People push back when you disturb the personal and institution equilibrium they know. And people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game: pushed aside, undermined, or eliminated." Throughout human history, most of the greatest leaders were "eliminated" precisely because they were perceived to be intolerable threats to what James O'Toole calls "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Draw up a list of the 10-15 greatest leaders in history. How many of them died of natural causes? On my own list, only Winston Churchill and he was twice voted out of office amidst ridicule and even contempt. One of this book's greatest value-added benefits is the brief summary of key ideas which concludes each chapter. I strongly recommend that the book be re-read within 2-3 weeks; also, that at least the chapter summaries be reviewed weekly thereafter.Posted by amol -->
Carnegie, key idea 2/3
The second key idea builds on the first.
Appreciate sincerely other people's virtues. Don't criticize. They won't agree and they won't like you. What's the point? You will gain nothing. Instead, start by building up what really is good.
Sent on the go from my Peek
Geithner did well with Lehrer
Check out his interview. I think he did way better than he looked giving that big speech a few days ago.
Arrest the mortgage crisis, get credit flowing, create jobs, cut health care costs, reduce dependence on foreign oil and contain energy costs...full plate!Posted by amol -->
The return of depression economics
Just finished Krugman's excellent updated edition of this moderately gloomy book. The good news is the problem is clear; the US situation is a variation of one we have seen not only in the 1930s but in Japan in the 90s, in Korea, Mexico, Thailand, Argentina and Russia at other times in the last 15 years. And it's fixable. Spend. That's the solution. Spend away!Posted by amol -->
New Morrissey album is out. Just listening to it now for the first time. Somehow, I was a little late to the party -- but between the upcoming tour, the NPR segment, and the review in The Week...well, it hit all my media buttons.
Scariest moments of 2008...
Soon after, Mr. Thain gathered along with Morgan's Mr. Mack and Goldman's Mr. Blankfein at the New York Federal Reserve in downtown Manhattan, in a room once used to cash coupons on Treasury bills. The three men were greeted by the masters of the world's biggest economy -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, New York Fed Chief Timothy Geithner and Securities and Exchange Commission chief Christopher Cox. It was a signal moment for the Wall Street firms, which after years of being monitored by the SEC would all soon come under the regulatory watch of a newly powerful Fed.Posted by amol -->
Great film! Man, Nixon was a bastard. The interesting question now is -- is Bush's fate worse than Nixon's? The failure of a presidency is a very hard legacy to explain, not simply the loss on a technicality that Watergate seemed to mean to Nixon.Posted by amol -->
Always a book nearby
I like reading books but in addition to a busy worklife I also have a busy homelife. And probably some IAD (internet addiction disorder) which requires me to read dozens of articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many other publications every day. I track del.icio.us and digg by RSS, the Hacker News Reddit, and drift through the New Yorker at least weekly (online). I read almost no periodicals offline, unless I'm reading over a shoulder.
So, I like reading books but all of the above, and I can probably list only 15-20 books I read this year. I forget them at the moment, but some of the most memorable were Charlie Munger's almanac and the Taleb books about black swans. Maybe a few others. The big new thing in my world is the Kindle which is making it easier to tote books around. I can even fall asleep holding it and it won't fall on my face because it's light.
I was amused given this backdrop to read Karl Rove's column in the WSJ today about his 3-year-long bookreading competition with Bush, in which they read about 50-100 books per year. He even lists a bunch of them! Popular history books, biographies, current affairs topics, and by by my count only one that counts as important literature: The Stranger by Camus (though most people read that in high school or thereabouts, don't they?).
Made me question the motive of writing something like that at this late stage. And I really am incredulous that a busy guy like the president can read a 300-500 page book every week as he claims to for much of this. The part that puts the lie to this whole thing, though, is his argument for why we should believe him:
"He plays up being a good ol' boy from Midland, Texas, but he was a history major at Yale and graduated from Harvard Business School. You don't make it through either unless you are a reader."
Yeah right!Posted by amol -->
For the man who has everything
At a loss for what to get the man who has it all? Why, this!Posted by amol -->
Michael Lewis on Liar's Poker
In fact, his book did have this effect on me. I got a Ph.D. in philosophy instead of going to Lazard Freres.
had no great agenda, apart from telling what I took to be a remarkable tale, but if you got a few drinks in me and then asked what effect I thought my book would have on the world, I might have said something like, “I hope that college students trying to figure out what to do with their lives will read it and decide that it’s silly to phony it up and abandon their passions to become financiers.” I hoped that some bright kid at, say, Ohio State University who really wanted to be an oceanographer would read my book, spurn the offer from Morgan Stanley, and set out to sea.Posted by amol -->
Wonderful movie! I have a soft spot for these epic desi films -- including the non-desi Darjeeling Limited, and the very desi The Namesake or Monsoon Wedding. And so forth.
But this Slumdog movie was terrific tonight!Posted by amol -->
Dems vs Repblicans. Stock market edition.Posted by amol -->
Says Hi to You
in the Waiting Room
of Your Doctors' Office.
BY Evan Johnston
- - - -
Hi, it's me, Jeff Bezos. I was just catching up on some summer reading with my Kindle, which is currently retailing for $359 plus shipping through Amazon. Would you believe we sold out of these little darlings in the first five and a half hours they were available?
Yes, that's a bandage on my hand. I have a massive paper cut. But that's not important right now. Instead, I want to tell you a little bit about myself, and about the common reading experience we all share.
As a small child, I loved books, and dreamed of a way to read them on my Etch A Sketch or calculator. And dreams, as we all know, have a way of coming true.
Now, like you, I get a lot of my reading done in the least hospitable of places. There's the airport, the ensuing plane flight, and the subsequent crash in the middle of an ocean, followed by being marooned on a deserted oil rig.
Well, all right, that last scenario is a bit dramatic. But let's take it as a test of the Kindle's power. You read the Kindle at the airport, catching up on all the blogs you're missing out on. Once on the plane, you start reading a legal thriller about a lawyer who successfully sues the pope. Sorry, gave away the ending. But now let's get to the oil rig.
Assuming it doesn't get wet, the Kindle could become your best friend on that oil rig—unless there are other survivors. In the likely event that those survivors turned against you—let's say they know that you caused the accident by demanding that the pilot look at your Kindle—you would be forced to deal with them. Harshly.
The Kindle can't help you with that particularly gruesome task—but it can help you recover from the psychological trauma of successfully sending your accusers to a watery grave. Reading, of course, is the best therapy a marooned murderer can buy.
Now, if you turn off the wireless function, you could be marooned for up to a week and still have enough battery charge for your Kindle. Not bad! And, unless you can read 125,000 books in seven days, I don't think you'll be getting bored. Unless trying to read in the gloomy light of the oil rig, wondering what will become of you, and what happened to your fellow passengers, is something you would consider boring.
Did I mention that your Kindle knows your name? You can't say that about the fish you'll be catching with your bare hands and killing with your teeth. I can't imagine they'd be too helpful in buying books, either. And if you're curious about any of the kinds of fish you're eating you can look them up on Wikipedia.
But right now, of course, I'm not on an oil rig. And neither are you. But here we are, together, waiting for a doctor.Posted by amol -->
Listen to my muxtapePosted by amol -->
Best 3 albums of last year?
What were the best 3 albums you got last year? Help me out! Email me at drwn dot com.Posted by amol -->
Perfection vs performance
I think this is an interesting observation. Some people explore all the wonky features of an app or a website or a technology or a philosophy or a formula or a phenomenon. Other people want what is practical and useful in all that. In different cases, different approaches make sense.Posted by amol -->
Be my last.fm friend
One place I'm actually having trouble recruiting buddies is on last.fm. Be mine.
Posted by amol -->
Focusing on crossing the chasm with a disruptive innovation into a tornado...
Many of the "classic" 1990s business books say the same stuff:
- focus narrowly on specific customers and specific product attributes
- worry about having too much stuff going on (if you are a big guy)
- worry that your existing business will make it hard for you to see the new wave that will crush you
This is true in Focus by Ries, The Power of Simplicity by Trout, Crossing the Chasm by Moore, and The Innovator's Dilemma by Christensen.
One guy who doesn't get enough credit is Utterback who wrote Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation and essentially compiled a terrific research library of chapters chronicling how electric lights beat gas lights, refrigeration beat cut ice, and so on. The inexorable conclusion is what Christensen writes -- that the new technology often has advantages of ease and cost that gain initial traction in the low end, where the dominant players ignore it as a cheap alternative. It gains steam, it blows the top, and the dominant players die.
Watch out for it in your business. I am trying to do it in mine...Posted by amol -->
I have really enjoyed Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic -- though not Bottle Rocket for some various reasons. They are great movies -- richly detailed alternative universes based roughly on all the neatest stuff you know about from this universe. (I'm looking forward to the new one, Darjeeling Limited). I was interested to notice, as I was re-watching Rushmore recently that this scene was based on this photograph by Latrigue.
Posted by amol -->
I read a great book yesterday called Focus . You may have heard what it's about since Ries (and Ries & Trout) have written lots of marketing books that you have probably seen (like Positioning, which I think I read in the 7th grade!). The bottom line is your strategy should be focused, because that's how to win. Don't cover bases, don't spread across the segments, don't create features and variants, and so on. Create a product with a brand and a strategy that addresses a need for a certain group of people. And don't clutter it.
The very interesting insight that he takes as a premise has had me noodling for a counterexample. His point is "convergence never happens, the opposite does". The aspirin market divides and turns into the aspirin and acetaminophen and then again. Cars becomes sports cars and sedans and minivans etc. Phones become long distance and local and mobile and broadband.
I can't think of a product introduction or new category that actually collapsed two distinct ones -- despite how often heralded the PC + TV or phone + cable or mobile phone + music player or any other combination happens to be.
Think about the things that mobile phones do. Consider that perhaps the interesting features they are adding are in fact not "the phone absorbing some other piece of functionality" but rather the emergence of specialized types of devices that will one day be very different from phones!Posted by amol -->
Some Kind of Monster
I was never really into Metallica -- though I remember my junior high school friend Kevin had the coolest t-shirts from Master of Puppets, And Justifce for All, and so on.
Well, I watched the doc Some Kind of Monster. Did you know that the lead guitarist who founded Metallica with them -- Dave Mustaine -- got kicked out of the band in 1983...and founded Megadeth?! Man. Oh yeah, and the classic heavy stuff -- like the early 1990s festival shows -- I can appreciate it now.
Though I have to say that watching these guys go through their Tony Soprano-like "rockers on therapy" session totally destroys their power. They are so pathetic.Posted by amol -->
Sidebar: Google reader saves
Posted by amol
Posted by amol -->
links for 2007-07-25
links for 2007-07-24
links for 2007-07-21
links for 2007-07-20
links for 2007-07-19
Founders at Work
Founders at Work
Great book. First person accounts of how founders made Paypal, Hotmail, Apple, Yahoo!, and lesser but more recent startups like 37Signals, Bloglines, etc.
Levchin of Paypal: they were a Palm Pilot to Palm Pilot payment platform at first. Remember that?
Bhatia of Hotmail: Tim Draper is a liar. He didn't invent "viral marketing" by telling them to put "from Hotmail" at the footer to every email. Plus he dragged them over the coals on financing the bridge round pre-acquisition. Clearly, Sabeer didn't leave the deal feeling warm towards DFJ!
Woz: the guys is a real friggin' genius and Jobs is the classic salesman-CEO to his classic engineer-nerd founder. By the way, before founding Apple, he created the Atari game Breakout...as a part-time job. Man!
All I've got is the Rescue Ring....
He's coming to town June 30.
Walk the Line
As my flu continues, last night I saw Walk the Line. Pretty good. Cash story is fantastic of course, and the performances are very good. I loved both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
One disappointment is the role of truth against fiction in the formulas of Hollywood. Of course his wife was kind of evil and of course his dad was unrepentant, what else could motor his black heart's story into the arms of June Carter? But somehow I'm sure the truth wasn't quite so clean or tidy, and the "Johnny Cash as redeemed sinner" story under it all is melodrama for "prone to physiological addictions".Posted by amol -->
New York Doll
I'm stuck reclining with my second illness of the last 8 weeks -- viral, due to "tiredness"? Baby related I'm sure!
So we are watching movies. Including this excellent Morrisseyania about the New York Dolls, and in particular their sad bassist. I have to go get the David Johansen/Buster Poindexter stuff on Netflix now... (he was the lead singer pre-Buster days).Posted by amol -->
Nights of Cabiria
Now I have seen all the major Fellini films except the late and more strange Satyricon. At long last, really, since I first saw 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita years ago when I was educating myself on the classic European postwar films. Having seen De Vico's The Bicycle Thief, I never got around to seeing the early realist Fellini La Strada until a few months back. Along the way I saw the terrific Amarcord, which is a kind of blueprint for the early 90s sentimental realist Nuovo Cinema Paradiso by Tomatore.
Here in Cabiria we see again the actress Giulietta Masina as the lead, this time a naive prostitute and last time in La Strada a performance troupe orphan. In both roles she has a terrific comic poise -- boyish, optimist, jocular. Almost a nun like Julie Andrews in a later role. "I don't need anything" she says a number of times in this film.
One of the best things that this film shares with La Strada is the pastoral, Comedie Italienne style storytelling. It's more like theater -- groups of characters on a roadside, in a street, gathered at a restaurant, in the woods. It has the feel of the Pierrot paintings.
Well, she keeps getting into unlucky situations, and in the end Fellini's message is severe.Posted by amol -->
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
A prescient book - written pre-9/11, pre-Iraq, pre-my having a daughter. Gripping psychological narrative about a) being a father and husband, b) being a prosperous second generation nose-clean type of guy, and c) living in a time of cultural and political upheaval punctuated by a difficult war (Vietnam), terrorism (anti-war left), and youth rebellion (the Sixties).
Scary setup to having a daughter, as I just did.
But also part of why "I don't read fiction", to put it in my crassest philosophico-scientific formulation. I left the enterprise feeling it was a form of idle entertainment, even if about weighty matters (an Oliver Stone movie perhaps, but still a lame Hollywood blockbuster). Sure, Roth gets the characters really right -- a vivid photorealism in his craft. But, as is the question for realist painting in the era since the photograph, what's the point? Maybe I should just chill out and like it (which I did) but it doesn't seem to be "paying its way" so I don't (as Charles Peirce would have said about the truth).Posted by amol -->
The Bad Sleep Well
Kurosawa noir effort.Posted by amol -->
The best kind of travel doc -- wimpy, nebbishy Americans move to shockingly-"state of nature" Fiji and open a movie theater. Instead of a bloodbath (in the style of classical colonial disasters), the Occidentals get mugged and cry their whole way home. Very funny.Posted by amol -->
The key question is: how do they do it? Visually incredible -- part travel film, part nature documentary, and part video game from a true bird's eye view.Posted by amol -->
Sweet and Lowdown
Possibly my favorite Woody Allen film (of the contemporary era, because he's not in it). And the music changed the way I thought about the 20th century (and 1,000 Django Reindhardt recordings later, changed the way I think about me!).
"I'm the best jazz guitarist there is, except for this French gypsy..."
Woody Allen's sendup of Latin American political disasters and the soft-headed American leftists who love them. Very funny film that at its best is a seedbed for Wes Anderson mis-en-scenes a la Royal Tenenbaums or at it lows is mere Naked Gun hilarity.Posted by amol -->
King of Comedy
Scorsesee and DeNiro in a fine...dark comedy from 1983. The guy is nuts about his favorite late night comedy superstar. Secret ending: when he finally gets up there and does his spiel, he's funny. Jerry Lewis in an impressive serious role and an early Sandra Bernhard.Posted by amol -->
Battle of Algiers
Great film -- the big ideas are the cinematography (on the street, handheld, pseudo-doc) and the political insight into insurrection. No wonder they were showing it all around the Pentagon pre-Iraq war. The wonder is how naive they must have been to have actuall watched this very knowing account of the doomed Colonialist's too-smart tactics against grassroots insurgency -- and still ended up where we are.
Chetan's favorite albums of 2006
My top four in alphabetical order — these got the most listens this year. According to iTunes, about 30 listens each and probably the same amount in winamp!
* Sure Juror - Sure Juror
I saw them at Pianos where they played a ridiculously short four song set but they rocked it anyway. Wish their upcoming NYC shows coincided with my trip next month…
* The Format - Dog Problems
Indie pop at its very best.
* The Long Winters - Putting the Days to Bed
No, wait.. THIS is indie pop at its very best!
* The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Saw them at Fontana’s in NYC and again in Zurich. Of my top four, these guys rock the hardest.
My favorite year
My Favorite Year (1982). Wow, lame movie. Featured Larry Appleton from Perfect Strangers...and oh yeah, Peter O'Toole. How did I let Netflix recommend this to me?
Posted by amol -->
An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) was an impressive film, stitching together the "yes there really is a big problem" with "yes you can do something about it" messages very effectively for me.
The call-to-action was the very powerful part for me; the macro scale is discouraging. I have been aware of warming since we spent a year studying it intensely back in high school. The idea that we have done nearly nothing collectively in that time is really very discouraging. Makes me think it is pointless to try anything to effect HIV, development, warming, nukes, and so on.
But this film and Jeffrey Sachs' recent development book made me see the problems differently and as tractable. Of course, I haven't exactly dedicated myself to solving these issues yet.Posted by amol -->
Art School Confidential
Art School Confidential (2006) was an awful movie. Weakly wrought love story set in a bunch of cheap shots at college-age art students. Not that they don't merit ridicule, but so do pretty much all college students (and all-aged artists).Posted by amol -->
Sidebar: My recent NetflixPosted by amol -->
Sidebar: Movie watchlist from Cin-o-matic
Dynamically updated every time you reload this page (though I don't change it all that much)Posted by amol -->