January 31, 2002

Make-up tips from PeopleSoft: How to make your earnings prettier than they are

You are a new CEO at a enterprise software company thats heading South. You'd like to hear turn-around king mentioned in the same breath as your name. You have your developers re-write the product. However R&D costs money. You spin off a company called Momentum Business Applications with a one time charge of $250 million. Most analysts just gloss over the charge as part of re-structuring.

Momentum turns around and hires you to develop the new application. You bill Momentum for the cost of developing the software. On your profit and loss statement you're spending no money on development. When the software is developed you start selling it. You buy Momentum back.

Now traditionally for sales of $471 million (9 months ending Sept. 2001) you would have netted $151 million (with expenses for R&D). However, since Momentum absorbed your R&D costs you ride up to Wall Street with $279 million in earnings. apresente le genius. Your earnings growth is headed to the moon.

Peoplesoft's turnaround was covered by atleast two magazines.Forbes presented the story above in all its nasty detail. Business2 however was content playing blushing school girl to Conway's tale of rescue and romance.

To be fair, on Jan 28th Business 2 faithfully toed the fuzzy accounting line with regards to PeopleSoft.

Posted at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

Recipe of the day: Enron earnings soup

How to make earnings out of nothing: First make a deal with a major player like Blockbuster to launch an exciting new service. Drum up buzz. Spin a new corporation to make the deal viable. Let the corporation pay you (Enron) for the rights to undertake the partnership. The corporation needs to pay you $110 million. The corporation borrows money from a bank. You guarantee the corporations loan with Enron stock. The corporation borrows $115 million and pays you $110 million. You immediately book it as earnings for the quarter.

The deal with Blockbuster goes South. Your stock starts to dip. Print more stock to keep the bank at bay. voila serve with a unrepentent CEO and garnish with political contributions.

Posted at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

Skeptical bible

Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

The Skeptics annotated bible presents the old and new testament in all its secular glory.

Posted at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

Free and clear

Jen: So what did you think of sabah?
Me: Sabah?
Jen: Isn't that where you were last night?
Me: Oooh. Starbucks. I guess Sprint PCS isnt all that free and clear afterall.
Jen: Definitely not free
Jen: Not very clear either :(

Posted at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2002

Mr. O

While I detest admitting I actually let my digit stop on Fox news as it flicked the channel-up button from CNN to MSNBC, I found this too amusing to let it go unannounced. The mail bag for the O'Reilley Factor included a letter from someone which could be loosely paraphased as

Mr. O. Just got back home after buying a new big screen tv. Your head woudnt fit in the old one

Truer words have ne'er been penned. Yes, I admit O'Reilley proved to be in possession of some left over humor, when he aired this comment. I still stand by my position that Fox News would better serve humanity inside a landfill.

Posted at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2002


A French police clerk, Bertillon, developed a mechanism to identify criminals by using measurement of the skull. At that time it was hypothesized that the shape and size of the skull revealed the character of the individual. A Phrenologist thus studies the size and shape of skulls.

Italian policeman Cesare Lombroso in Criminal Man proposed a theory of criminal type

More info

Posted at 12:43 PM

January 28, 2002

The economic human - not rational

The Washington Post (via aldaily) has one of the best articles on economics I've ever read. Analysis coming.

Posted at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

Nyotaimori - eating sushi off

Nyotaimori - eating sushi off a naked woman?

Posted at 04:39 PM | Comments (3)

on War

Von Clauswitz in his tome On War estabilished some of the first principles of modern warfare (Yes, Sun Tzu's Art of War does predate On War by many centuries and remains timely (although much like Machiavelli his work sees a lot more exposure in pop business books)). The most quoted line from On War is undoubtedly War is a continuation of policy by other means. Essenially implying that war's goal is promulgation of a policy that could have been pursued by other means.

Aside: Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington discuss this statement in Crimson Tide.

Posted at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

guidance systems on rockets

In order for rockets/missiles to get where they are intended to go they need guidance systems. The US military spent a lot of money building and developing GPS (Global Positioning System) to enable GPS receivers to detect their current location very exactly. This infrastructure has enabled cruise missiles and other systems to navigate their way autonomously and cause discernible negative impact on their target. The USSR attempted to build their own version of the GPS satellites. Before the advent of GPS, missiles used other guidance systems. One system relies on communication with the earth station for directives on navigation. This requires a stable communication link with the station and assumes the station has an accurate view of the missiles progress. The easy solution is the inertial guidance system. The missile carries oscilloscopes on board that provide information on the current altitude. Using the speed information the missile calculates its current position with respect to the target (which is programmed prior to launch) and performs the necessary adjustments to arrive at the destination. Factors effecting this system include wind resistance etc which might put a missile seriously of course.

This is a far cry from the days where artillery meant cannons and the main parameter that could be adjusted was the angle of release (effecting trajectory and thus distance). Today missiles fired from submarines can travel under water till they come near the coast and then leave the water surface increasing the surprise factor.

Mans ability to devise ingenious methods for destroying each other is boundless.

Posted at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

Diagramming sentences

Not sure what this falls under, but I'll add it here till I figure it out.

Posted at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2002

What is Semper Fi?

Semper Fi is short for Semper Fidalis (Latin for Always faithful). Semper Fi is the motto of the marine core. You see this on bumper stickers all across America. What are the Marines? (besides, the few, the brave the marines?) They are soldiers who work on naval vessels. I understand that they have to be self contained and ready to work for limited durations without any supply routes.

A discussion worth having will entail facts about how supply routes probably dictate how wars are won.

Side Note: General Montgomery once noted of WWII : "The war will be over when one side has run out of paper to print manuals on". Why is this relevant? The US Army apparently has a manual of several hundred pages detailing the selection of a head of broccoli.

Posted at 06:22 PM | Comments (1)

Rights under the Geneva Convention

The ICRC has the Geneva Convention on line.

Posted at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2002

Dell is a retailer not an innovator?

I read an interesting editorial in a leading business magazine where the author noted that when he met with Michael Dell he was told that Michael wanted Dell to be the IBM of the 21st century. The author observed that Dell struck him more of a Walmart than an IBM.

Walmart is one of the most remarkable businesses of the 20th century. Walmart's success lies in its superior distribution management technology and prices. They are supposed to have some of the most advanced information technology systems. Their warehouses are apparently extremely automated and efficient. Dell, has probably the best supply chain system in the computer industry. Their inventory levels are measured in hours and not days. This is achieved, because they dont make a machine until its ordered. However once its been ordered to be built, any change in the order results in a new machine being built. The machine that was originally configured continues through the process and ends up in the Dell Factory Outlet. Dell, squeezes down on its suppliers and is known to be ruthless with partners and suppliers.

IBM is one of those companies that has innovated on technology and not just on process. What other companies fit this mould? in other industries? The essential diffrentiation appears to be one of innovation vs process engineering. The retail industry is essentially limited to process engineering, marketing, brand loyalty and price diffrentiation.

As a side note: Dell did briefly enter the retail sales of computers. However that didnt work and they exited the reail sales channel promising to never return. Dell made Direct the theme in its business. Dell currently predicts that 30 million pcs are on their 3rd year and will require replacing in 2002. However, the counter argument is that computer no longer need to be upgraded every 3 years. The Mhz sapping applications are currently limited by bandwith not CPU cycles (thanks to the webification of almost all software applications). However, software vendors like Microsoft are hard at work to squeeze every cycle possible out of silicon.

Posted at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2002

Language Scripts

Beyond doubt the best website to pick up a new script is Omniglot.
I am currently working on Arabic, Korean and Tamil.

Posted at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2002

The intertwined world of business

KMart is contemplating declaring bankruptcy (Chapter 11) which would allow it to restructure its operations. (As an aside, KMart is sitting on a decent amount of cash which might prevent it from getting approval for declaring bankruptcy). If KMart were to go bankrupt what other businesses might be affected? Well, KMart requires retail space. Kimco Realty's portfolio has KMart as a major tenant (~13%). So Kimco was dowgraded by Salomon Smith Barney. If KMart were not around some other brands would suffer. For example Martha Stewart has primarily worked with KMart to peddle her wares. So you'd anticipate a drop in her market value as well.

Lets snapshot this time

Date: Jan 15th, 2002


We'll revisit this in a few weeks.
Update Jan 22nd Just heard that Kmart filed for bankruptcy (chapter 11).


The rational I can offer is that MSO's shareholders now realize that Martha Stewart can move to another retailer (breaking a contract that was otherwise set to expire in 2008). KIM's stock price probably already incorporated the dismal outlook of an economy that did not require more retail rental space. KIM's P/E stands at 15. With a book value of $18 (per share) I'd say it's looking attractive. But then again I've never been a fan of REIT's or any other business requiring land as capital.

Factoid: When New York was still New Amsterdam, the Dutch govt appointee built a wall in New York to defend against the British attacking from Canada (Unfortunately for him, the British attacked by sea). The street next to the wall was called Wall St. The original traders used to trade with coins which were in 1/8ths? hence when the stock market was estabilished prices were quoted in 1/8th untill the decimalization in 2002.(the last fact needs some research)

Posted at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2002

What are overflight charges

Countries charge airlines for permission to use their air space for over flight. Similarly airlines are also charged for landing (with a surcharge for night landings). Afghanistan (not to pick a country at random) charged $400 in overflight fees and $100 for landing/take off fees (all figures in USD)

The IATA has more detailed information.

Factoid: the Boeing 747 has a fuel efficiency of 5 gallons per mile (note the order of units)

Posted at 02:35 PM

January 10, 2002

Basics of Television

Television works at a rate of 30 frames / second. Rasterization is the process of converting a picture into individual pixels each with their own intensity and color. Combined with a vertical and horizontal sync the rows of pixel represent a composite picture signal

Broadcast channels in the US are in the frequencies of 2 - 13 VHF and 14 - 83 UHF. Picture is transmitted in the AM band and sound in the FM band.

Digital satellite and cable systems are not real digital television. For something to be digital everything from capture to transmission to display must be digital.

Resolution defines the clarity/crispness of a picture. Analog tv tends to be interlaced half the lines are drawn in 1/60th of a second and the other half in the next 1/60th of a second. The human eye cannot discern this change and this allows transmission to send less information. A tv displays at about 512x400 (contrast this with computer monitors that look hideous at 640x480).

Digital transmission is enabled by broadcasting in a channel that has a througput of 19.39 Mb(Mega-bits)s. Broadcasters can divide the channel into subchannels. The following encoding formats are available.

480p 704x480 - SD - Standard Definition as this is close to the Analog tv resolution. (Excepting the progressive scan)
720p 1280x720 - HD - High Definition.
1080i 1920x1080 - HD - High Definition.

Interlaced vs Progressive As discussed above in interlaced the image is updated half the lines at a time every 1/60th of a second. In Progressive the entire image is updated. Why 1/60th?

Lastly the aspect ratio for standard tvs is 4:3 essentially 4 units width to 3 units height. HD tvs have a 16:9 aspect ratio (think movie screens)

Compression MPEG-2 is the widly used standard for compression. It allows you to pick the bit - rate and screen size. This has the benefit of allowing the broadcaster for using different settings for different programs. A talk show with little movement and mostly static data a 480p display will be quite watchable. A roller-coaster scene however has rapidly changing details and would require maybe a 1080i stream.

All of this is from How stuff works. I have merely condensed it for my own notetaking. If you havent been to HSW yet I strongly urge you to go there and support it. One of the best side effects of the exuberant venture funding is HSW

Posted at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2002


Paganism is a polytheistic faith that see's immanance (divinity residing in all things). It is possible to be Christian and Pagan at the same time (depending on who you ask).

For more detailed information the Paganism FAQ has answers.

Posted at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2002

Food items of note

escargot French. snail. -
bulgur a quick cooking form of wheat.
courgette zucchini - squash
Capers Capers are pickled unopened flower buds of a plant (capparis spinosa). Mainly mediterranean in origin.
foie gras The fattened liver of fowl. Marinated in port/wine/water.
kumquat Fruits from the kumquat tree. Look like small oranges. Should be eaten whole.
Cornflour or Cornstarch A starch made from wheat used to thicken sauces
Couscous Separated grain of wheat. Usually its milled but as a grain is an alternative to rice.
Green Shallots or Scallions or Spring onions variety of onion. small bulb with green stalk.
Brioche A soft light textured bread.
Meringue A dessert topping made from beaten eggs and sugar
Hollandaise sauceA hardly cooked, gently thickened egg-yolk and butter sauce, usually with lemon juice but occasionally with vinegar. The lemon flavor should be prominent but not overwhelming. Main flavor of Eggs Benedict
Mesquite Mesquite is a shrub that is used popularly as a flavor enhancer (in the form of wood chips.. ???). Mesquite is popular in bbq foods.
Pâté paste made of meat. eg chicken liver pâté. foie de gras pâté is paste of foie de gras
Kale or collards A kind of cabbage plant?
bouillabaisse A stew made of two different kinds of fish
Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages contain more useful information.

Posted at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Coffee terminology

A brief overview of basic coffee terminology.

Espresso A method of brewing coffee. As opposed to the traditional drip method utilized by most coffee machines, espresso machines run steam/hot water through finely ground coffee

Latte An espresso made with steamed milk. In order to make steamed milk let the nozzle sit deep inside the milk

Cappucino An espresso topped with foamed milk. In order to let the milk foam let the nozzle sit just under the milk level.

Mocha Essentially a latte with chocolate.

Cafe au Lait Coffee and boiled milk. simple. strong. nice

The Seattle Lexicon has more coffee jargon.

Posted at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2002

Language instinct and estrogen

Factoid for today: estrogen is responsible for linguistic skills. Apparently the ability to pick the right word to convey the right information peaks with the level of estrogen (in the middle of the menustration cycle) and wanes during menustration. Over all women have better linguistic skills than men.

Posted at 06:47 PM

January 05, 2002

A few false arguments

Argumentam ad antiquitatem Argues that something is right because its old.

Argumentam ad baculum might makes right

Argumentam ad crumenam Argues that those with money must be right. He won so much money in the stock market there fore he must be smarter.

Argumentam ad hominem This is a good one! There are basically two forms. The first form is abusive. You criticize the person who makes the statement. You could also criticize some one who is easier to criticize. For example you could say that some person with notriety (Idi Amin perhaps) would havemade a similar statement. You attack the statement by attacking the person (against the man). The second form known as the circumstantial form attempts to persuade someone by appealing to their circumstances. For example defending college aid by appealing to the person's reliance of student aid?

The second form is also known as poisoning the well of discord. Thats a cool sounding term for sure. It implies that you subvert the mechanism of discord by utilizing the circumstances to taint a person's reputation. If I said "you are a lier, and everything you say is false" then I have removed the basis for a discussion between us.

Argumentam ad ignorantiam This is another great one. This one appears when someone says that something is true because it hasnt been proven false, or vice versa.

Argumentam ad Lazarum This is the fallacy of assuming that someone who is poorer is right. This is the opposite of argumentam ad crumenam.

Argumentam ad misericordiam Appeals to pity.

Argumentam ad nauseam The belief that the more often an argument is repeated the truer it becomes.

Argumentam ad novitatem The opposite of argumentam ad antiquitatem. Something newer must therefore be right.

Argumentam ad numerum The idea that something must be true because a great number of people believe it to be true.

Argumentam ad populum The approach used to win an argument by appealing to the masses. This argument utilizes emotion to involve people.

Argumentam ad verucundiam This approach uses the respect for a well known figure to prove the point.

Other terms non causa pro causa (cum hoc ergo propter hoc, post hoc ergo propter hoc), petitio principii, tu quoque,

Essentially what we notice in this list of false arguments is that there are subtle ways in which you can shift from the pure, impersonal logic of an argument and introduce human variables to make your point. Some of these are pretty subtle, for example with argumentam ad verucundiam utilizes respect for a famous personality to ramrod an argument on his/her reputation. Similarly argumentam ad populum is very commonly used.

The place to get a good summary is at infidels.org
A more comprehensive discussion of this and other tools of the philosophical trade is at Virtual Salt and at intrepid software

Posted at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

The basis of the modern justice system

John Rawls and Original Position

The modern judicial system is in some ways based on the work of John Rawls.
let there be light..

More information was gleaned from teach yourself ethics.
The concept of social contract encapsulates the implicit agreement reached between individuals in a society in order to live harmoniously. Contrast this with say a herd of horses. Generally there are 4-5 mares, one stallion and the foals. The mares (1-5) are in a strict hierarchy of dominance (1 being the pre-eminent, and 5 being subservient to the rest). Human societies function differently.

Thomas Hobbes (16th century) (in Leviathan (Leviathan means a totalitarian state having a vaste bueraucracy) proposed that the contract existed between a ruler and his subjects. The ruler was above the law. By living in a certain geographical area you had implicitly acquiescent to the contract prevailing in that area. Your only real option was relocation.

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man
is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men
live without other security than what their own strength and their own
invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no
place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and
consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the
commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no
instruments of moving and removing such things as require much
force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no
arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual
fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary,
poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

--Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes - Chapter XIII - Of the natural condition of mankind as concerning their felicity and misery

Machiavelli (about the same time) pretty much agreed with Hobbes hypothesis. In the Prince he dicussed how a ruler can acquire and maintain power.

Between the two of them, Hobbes and Machiavelli essentially stated that when left to its own devices a group of humans would continually exist in a state of power sharing/recycling. The individuals in the group will consistently be fighting to take power away from each other and to amass more power. (Side bar on American isolationism (circa post-independence and pre WWI) esp. Monroe Doctrine would be a nice contrast)

-John Stuart Mill- proposed that while the social contrast did exist it did not place the ruler above rest of the society. Rousseau (age of enlightenment I s'pose) was quite agreeable with this concept.

Thomas Paine (the American constitution was framed on some of his work) made what I consider some very nice points. He maintained that it's ok for people to essentially be free to do anything until their actions effect the freedom of other people in the society.

John Rawls (1920's?) in his Theory about justice said the minorty is free as long as its actions are not deleterious to the majority. He also had a concept called veil of ignorance which stated that over all a society would choose rules/actions such that the entire society benefits. The basic premise of the veil was that you took people of different backgrounds and placed them within a veil that occluded all information about their background such that they could not identify their backgrounds. So rich people within this veil would choose policies that would benefit the poor since they have no knowledge of their own economic status. People would hedge their bets so that if they end up being poor their lives wouldnt be so bad after all.

Posted at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2002

Maslows hierarchy of needs

Physiological Needs The body aims to achieve homeostasis (an equilibrium of different factors (water content of the blood, salt content, sugar content, protein content, fat content, calcium content, oxygen content, constant hydrogen-ion level /acid-base level, constant blood temperature). If all of a human's needs are unmet then the physiological need takes the highest priority. Given hunger for love and food, a human is more likely to find a solution for the latter first. As a result all other desires and capacities are pushed on to the back burner. This begs the question, if a community undergoing drought and starvation is less likely to devote resources towards say poetry and art appreciation. Logically this appears to be true. I know of no specific example. A history of Eithiopian art in the last century should be small if the predicate is true.

Safety Needs When the physiological needs are met then the human turns towards safety needs. Safety attains the highest priority over all other desires. A functioning society tends to provide this to its members. Examples in the recent past/present of where this has failed include Somalia and Afghanistan. In Kosovo, while food was available, the absence of security for the Kosovars resulted in a large population being displaced in search of security.

Love Needs If safety and physiological needs are met then the human being gravitates towards achieving fulfilment of love needs. A note worth making here is that sex is not equivalent to love. Love can and is often expressed sexually. Sexuality can at points be considered solely for its physiological basis. Could this explain the use of prostitutes among married men? The nature of 'swinger clubs' also magnifies the separation of sex and love.

Esteem Needs Every body needs to be felt like they are appreciated, wanted, make a difference etc. I've noticed people behave differently in different situations. On the one hand, say in a work situation they might appear meek and less assertive but in other situations for example with a spouse they appear belligerent and aggressive. Is this an effort to compensate for their lack of recognition in the work place? I've often heard people mention how it is that some one brings out certain qualities in them. How does that work? and how does it relate to esteem need?

Self actualization Self actualized is such a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) term that it makes me want to puke. Maslow's argument is that even if all needs are met the intrinsic talent must be used in a manner that resonates with the person. A painter must paint. A singer must sing etc. I tend to believe that the self actualization is a ephemeral state where everything makes sense in ones life. The work, the focus, the effort are all working together. This would be akin to satori or kensho. I believe that this is state by its very nature is impossible to maintain. Man is in constant search of this state.

Other aspects of basic needs While these needs are represented in a rigid order Maslow says that there are other factors at play.

1. Some people have different importance accorded to different needs. For some people self actualization is more important than love. The tear jerker non-pareil Oprah Winfrey and the fantasy world of Nora Ephron's creation would for example place Love higher than other needs.

2. Once you've experienced a very low level of need you might lose the motivation to seek the right level. Someone who has been unemployed for a long time might no longer need a job which provides self-actualization to be happy.

3. The so called psychopathic personality is largely attributed to being starved of love in the early life. This makes these peoples lives devoid of love. Maslow points out that animals lose suckling/pecking reflexes if they're not exercized soon after birth.

4. When a need has been fully satisfied for a while, it loses its value. Maslow uses the example of a person who has never had to undergo chronic hunger and claims that food becomes a lower priority.

-- these notes were derived/paraphrased from A.H.Maslow's paper A Theory of Human Motivation published in 1943 published in the Psychological Review. I claim no originality in any of the text presented above..

Aside I heard/read some where that there is a certain equilibrium of happiness that a human is constantly in. Any displacement will eventually compensate itself and restore the equilibrium. So, give a man a million dollars and the happiness quotient increases (yada yada, money doesnt buy happiness but it buys things that give you happiness). Overtime even millionaires start feeling depressed. (yeah the first porsche will make you happy, but consequent acquisitions will not have the same effect). Similarly, the people of Afghanistan were given their fair share of trouble, but over time made do with it.

Posted at 03:17 PM | Comments (3)

January 03, 2002

branding. what does it mean?

Charles Revson started Revlon during the great depression. Why? because he believed that depression was a stronger indication of people's sentiment than the economic reality and that a luxury item such as nail polish will be popular as it would alleviate people's mood. He detached price from cost of product. hence branding. Coca Cola sells sugar water? Yes. But what business is it in? the business of teaching people to sing together (barf!). Other info: "Hope in a Jar" book on the cosmetics industry.

Revson appears to be a ceo of the same mettle as Bill Gates (arrogant, rude to employees). Revlon went public in 1955.

Sam Walton: Started Walmart in Benton, Arkansas. Arkansas joke: We're glad Mississipi is around so that we are not the last in everything

William Levitt (promoted the creation of single family houses in large scale production). Levitt town New York. Huge affect on the landscape of America and how Americans live. Levitt pointed out that a man with his own plot of ground was too busy to become a communist.

Rockerfeller, J.P.Morgan. Henry J. Kaizer.

gleaned from theconnection.org presentation on titans


Hope in a Jar
Time magazine's list of builders

Posted at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

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Do not be
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