April 30, 2002

Stock valuation

A company's stock is evaluated using many different criteria. If there were one fail-safe mechanism the stock market wouldnt be the big game it is. Here we consider some of the things to look for in a company.

Financial Health: The financial health of a company is not that different from the financial health of an individual. The D-word is key. How much debt a person has indicates the financial well being of a person. For example people prop up their debt with the help of collateral or income. People take second mortgages on their house to increase their debt levels. Credit card companies extend lines of credit based on your income. A company is not different. Financial leverage is:

Assets/Equity

It reveals how much of the assets is backed by equity as opposed to debt. Look at companies that have low debt and high free cash flow. WCOM (Worldcom) has $37 billion as debt on its books. Its market capitalization is about $10 billion.

Profitability: Essentially when you buy a share you are investing in the company. You do this because you believe the company will give you a positive return on investment. If the return on investment was 3% you'd be better off leaving it in your savings account and stay safe without weathering the risk. ROE (Return on Equity) is a crucial measure of a companies profitability (and as a consequence your return on investment). Depending on the business several factors are needed to increase profitability. When times are rought management boosts profitability by reducing expenses (read: layoffs, stop coffee, employee perks). In order to increase revenue Chilli's would have to do one of the two:

1. open new stores
2. increase sales at existing locations

Growth: A stock's price in theory reflects the value of the company. GE is worth close to $200 billion because investors believe that if the company were taken apart it would yield $200 billion dollars. However, in the next year if GE's revenues increased then it would be worth more. In reality a stock's price reflects where investors think the company is going to go.

Valuation check: A stock's valuation is checked using calculations such as P/E (price per earnings), P/S (price per sales) or P/B (price per book value).

Earnings as discussed previously is the profits of the company. P/S marks a company's price against its sales. In the hey day of the internet craze the stock market placed all its bets on increasing sales with no focus on the profitability. As a result companies were urged to grow as fast as they could with little or no focus paid to the bottom line. Book value of a stock is what its worth in hard assets. This is a very pessimistic way of looking at a stock since you then believe that the company is worth no more than what cash it has in the bank and the buildings it owns.

Right before PC Order (PCOR) was bought by Trilogy its valuation was $65 million. PC Order had $66 million in the bank!. But if a stock is totally undervalued then book value is a great indicator of whether it's worth investing in that company. Currently Worldcom (WCOM) has a market capitalization of less that $10 billion with a share price of ~$2.50. It has a book value of ~$18. So why is Wall Street hurting this stock so badly? In my personal opinion all companies with substantial debt on their balance sheets ($37 billion in wcom's case) are tainted with the Enron syndrome; investors do not trust their books.

The factors we discussed above all work well until we encounter debt. P/E ratio's do not consider the debt burden of the company. Apply these terms to the financial health of an individual we find the example of Joe Schmoe making $50,000 a year (revenue) with savings (earnings) of $20,000. The P/E for Joe Schmoe (assuming he is incorporated with 10,000 shares trading at $10) would be well placed (5). However if Joe were carrying $100,000 of student loans we'd be unduly optimistic of Joe's potential.

Enterprise multiple takes into account the debt burden of a company. The enterprise multiple is calculated as follows:


Company market cap
+ liabilities (debt, etc)
- cash, inventory, assets


total cost to buyer (enterprise value)

Now to get enterprise multiple

enterprise value/Operating Income

Operating income is (revenues - cost of revenue - Operating expenses)

When the Enterprise value for a company is more than its P/E then its a tip that the company has sizeable debt. Learn more about enterprise multiples at Forbes


coming soon....
Barrier to Entry, Price Elasticity, Capital Intensive, Substitute, Regulation

Posted at 08:58 PM

Economic solution to mundane problems

Free markets are great at solving lots of resource consumption problems. Sometimes, even when problems dont appear to fit the economic model the solution lies in free markets.

At one point in my past I was involved in building a distributed computer system which would replicate servers (resources) to locations with closer geographical proximity to the client. The system was designed to enforce a certain QoS (Quality of Service) and would replicate whenever the load on a server exceeded a threshold. However in order to prevent the rampant spawning of services around the server farm we built an economic model to constrain the replication. The load manager would enter an auction to buy time. Periodically a servers balance would be refreshed. The server would enter auctions with these tokens and would relinquish tokens when it won the auction. A server had rules that would help it decide how much to bid on an auction (based on load). This prevented a server from replicating out of control (since the tokens would be exhausted till the next refresh).

We think of phones, bandwith etc in terms of resources. We are prepared to pay more for broadband than dialup internet connections. We stay off the phone during the peak hours because we have limited tokens (minutes) during the peak hours. There are other resources that we dont think of in the same way. Roads are examples of a resource that we use without regard to the cost since the cost is pre-factored into our registration fees.

However if we were to consider roads as resources which require payment based on need and congestion it would alter our behavior. I am not sure it makes sense to make all roads and lanes toll based. I would prefer to have a few lanes toll based that I can use if the urgency of getting to my destination makes it worth my while to pay for it.

In Mexico the government has allowed private companies to build toll roads across the country. These roads are clean, well-maintained and expensive. The govt still has free roads which can be used who'd prefer to rough it out rather than pay for the good roads.

Forbes magazine has a good article on the free market solution to traffic congestion

Posted at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

square peg in a round hole

Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true. God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist.


-- Saint Augustine
The City of God.

Posted at 02:06 PM

April 28, 2002

stock market indices

The DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is a group of 30 stocks picked by the editors of the Wall Street Journal. Unlike most other averages like the S&P etc, the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is not weighted by market capitalization.

The DJIA is calculated by totalling the price of the 30 stocks and dividing by a divisor. The divisor has changed over time (starting at 1) to something like 0.20 today. The divisor has changed to counter the effect of a stock split. If say WMT were to split tomorrow the DJIA would also be changed to counter the effect of the drop in price of each share of WMT.

The Standard and Poor's index by contrast is weighted by market capitalization. The S&P 500 was first published in 1957. A committee at S&P meets to decide the constituents of the index each month. New companies are added when old ones are removed because of mergers or faltering business. Entrance into the S&P is important to most companies since there are index funds that invest in the S&P 500 and this brings a lot of attention to the companies in the fund. Holding companies and REIT's are excluded from the 500.

Posted at 08:19 PM

quotes

Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.
--Blaise Pascal
Vision without action is day dreaming. Action without vision is dangerous
-- Japenese proverb
Posted at 12:44 PM

Now, lets blame the man

Notable excerpts:


....He has the Audi TT (two seats, natch) and a Clerkenwell loft with acres of expensive square footage. He has the large and carefully housed record collection and Bang & Olufsen audio equipment to play it on; the G4 Mac with the 23in screen; the L-shaped brown sofa from SCP; and the kitchen with industrial-spec Parmesan shaver and stainless-steel tops from Bulthaup. And he doesn't have to share any of this with anyone....

and

..is what journalist Richard Benson calls a SCREAMER - a Self-Centred, Rich, Educated, Adventurous Materialist. He is what trend-busting magazine Viewpoint calls a Lone Wolf and others have called a Metrosexual. He's the new pink pounder. A straight, single man with few ties, responsibilities or obligations and a healthy bank balance not being drained by dependents. He's the man who loves his technology, furniture (mid-century modernism all the way), Camper shoes and drizzling olive oil over everything. He has learnt to look at himself through the eyes of gay fashion stylists and photographers (the trim waistline, the haircut, the Helmut Lang). He's the whole package....

But the article loses its way after making a couple of insightful comments. To read more of the incoherent attempt to understand the new male-female dynamic from across the pond go to the guardian

Posted at 12:40 PM

insomnia

Insomnia can become a form of contemplation. You just lie there, inert, helpless, alone, in the dark, and let yourself be crushed by the inscrutable tyranny of time.
Thomas Merton --The Sign of Jonas
Posted at 12:26 PM

April 25, 2002

India's economic future

An article on India's economic future. (Courtesty Sapta-Sindhu).

Posted at 09:10 AM

April 24, 2002

Balance sheets

Overview of basic balance sheet terminology:

Revenue: Quite simply the inflow of money into a company

Expenses:
Cost of Sales/Cost of goods sold: represents the cost of creating the revenue. For a company that manufactures bread this will include the cost of wheat, yeast, labor, electricity, etc (all the raw materials and labor needed to produce the product). For a software company the cost of CD/documentation production is minimal compared to the cost of the software. However companies that employ professional services personnel to deploy the software include the cost of the personnel in the cost of goods/cost of sales entry. (note: software companies do not include the cost of developing the software. That will come later).

Gross Profit: This is the difference between revenue and cost of goods. Quite simply put this is the number you get by subtracting the cost of producing the good from the revenues. For our bread company most of the expenses are included in the cost of goods, but for our software company the cost of goods is minimal.

Selling, General and Administrative Expenses (SG&A). Also known as Operating Expenses. This includes all the expenses involved in the running of a business. This number sometimes includes Research and Development and Marketing Expenses. For our bread company this will include the secretarial and administrative expenses. The R&D entry will include the financial effort exerted in developing new types of bread.

Depreciation and Amortization: When a business buys a resource it intends to use over a period of time it does not include its expense entirely in the period it execute the purchase. For example if the bread company buys a warehouse for $2 million it will not include the cost of the warehouse in regular expense since it intends to use the warehouse for say 20 years. It will instead amortize the cost of the warehouse as $100K every year.

Non-recurring charges/gains: A one-time action will trigger a non-recurring charge sometime. For example if a company laid off employees in a quarter then the cost of their severance packages etc will figure in the one-time charge. Sometimes companies include this number in their operating expense (SG&A).

Interest Income/expense: can be the interest the company pays to service its debt. It can also be income earned from cash in hand.

Taxes: the tax liability of the company.

Net Income: The profits after all expenses have been paid out. In the case of most companies these days its negative ... sigh.

Preferred Dividends: Companies also issue different types of stocks. Preferred stocks get their dividend at a higher rate than common stock holders (usually they dont have voting rights either).

EPS: diluted vs basic. After reporting the number of shares outstanding in a company the diluted number of shares are also reported. For example software companies issue a lot of stock options. These options are not shares themselves but have the option of being converted to shares (after vesting etc). The diluted number of shares includes the number of options outstanding. The basic EPS (earnings per share) is simply the earnings / number of shares. The diluted EPS performs the calculation on the diluted number of shares and is hence lower. The diluted EPS is a good reflection of the cost of stock options.

More information:

The most essential equation in Accounting is


Assets - Liabilities = Equity

A company uses financial leverage to finance its operation. For example to increase its sales (assuming the demand exists) our bread company might desire to build a new factory. It might not possess the capital to make such an expansion. It uses financial leverage (takes on more liabilites) to make the capital commitment today. Financial leverage is:


Assets/Equity

Current Assets: are defined as those likely to be converted into cash and consumed in the next business cycle (usually defined to be one year). Current Assets include:

1. Cash. Money in the bank.
2. Marketable securities. Any investments etc that a company might have its money in for the short term.
3. Current Accounts Receivable. This is the money a company expects to receive from its customers (via collection). Usually it's a given that all the accounts receivable will be collected but this might not necessarily be the case. For example phone companies have a number of their's go to collection agencies. In that case they are unlikely to achieve full collection.
4. Inventories. Simplicistically this refers to the products manufactured but not yet sold. But can include raw materials on hand to manufacture. If a company has high inventories levels then it implies that a large percentage of its assets are locked till the goods can be sold. Another problem with large inventories is that they have to be cleared. For the bread company the inventory will rot and be useless. Retailers like the Gap have to mark down inventory and move it out in order to make room for new arrivals.

Non Current Assets:

1. Property, plant and equipment are examples. Depreciation is used to cover the lower value of equipment over time.
2. Intangible. The most notorious intangible is good will. This is the euphemism used to make accountable the extra money paid for an acquisition. For example if our bread company were to buy a pastry company as part of its acquisition and made 500K over the asking price of 1million then a goodwill of 500K has to be included into the account books.

Liabilities:

Current Liabilities: Similar to Current Assets these are the bills the company expects to pay during the following business cycle. If a business borrows money then short term debt is part of this entry. Current Accounts payable are the monies owed by this company to its suppliers. Our bread company needs to pay the wheat supplier.

Non Current Liabilities are the monies the company owes over a longer period of time.

Cash Flow Statements:

The cash flow statement is a new requirement for companies submitting their balance sheets to the SEC (since 1988). Cash flow statements are on 3 areas:

Cash flow from Operating Activities:

Net Income (Revenues - cost of sales) is calculated as discussed above
Depreciation and Amortization: Since this is a non-cash charge (i.e. this was paid off in a previous time period and does not affect the cash flow for this period it is removed from consideration) and is added. Deferred taxes are also added. Inventory/Account Receivable. When either of these two go up it implies that a company's cash is tied up in a warehouse (in the case of inventories) or in collections (in the case of accounts receivable). Both of these cases results in a lower cash flow for a company. One time charges are added back to the cash flow statement.

Net Cash from Operating Activities (or operating cash flow) is the sum/subtraction of the entries above.

Cash flow from Investing Activities:
This includes capital expenditures made by the company. In the case of our bread company it is buying a plant etc.

Investment Proceeds: the returns from any investment activities of a company. During the dot-com boom companies like Dell, Microsoft invested in start-ups with their extra cash.

Purchases or spin-offs. Costs associated with these activities are factored in.

Cash flow from Financing activities:

Dividends paid: Any dividends paid out to share holders have to be included
Issuance/re-purchase of stock: When things are going well, and the company believes that the stock price is below what the company is worth, then the company starts re-purchasing shares. This has the effect of increasing the price of the stock (higher demand) and the company increases its value. During growth period the opposite occurs. Companies conduct secondary offerings to increase the amount of free cash they have.
Payment of debt is also included.

Posted at 08:58 PM

SEC filings and the public company

The SEC requires several documents to be filed by public companies each year.

Once a year companies publish a high-gloss, we-are-going-to-conquer-the-world annual report. This report paints a rosy picture of the companies activities and future potential and is distributed to all share holders.

The company also files a 10-K with the SEC. The 10-K contains a description of the companies business and a geographical breakdown of its performance for the year. All legal proceedings, execution compensation, risks, and by-laws have to be listed in this document. The company's audited financial statements are also present in this document.

The company files a 10-Q in every quarter that a 10-K hasnt been filed. A 10-Q contains the unaudited financial statements of the company for that quarter. Any spin-offs, acquisitions are listed in this document. All 8-K's filed in that quarter are listed.

An 8-K is filed whenever a material change occurs in a company during the quarter. Spinoffs, mergers, preliminary financial results are all disclosed as 8-K's.

S-1 is a prospectus of a company. It details the nature of the business, future outlook, reason for raising money etc.

Posted at 08:35 PM

SEC and the markets

The roaring twenties culminated the great stock market crash of 1929. In a bid to clean up the system Congress passed the Securities Act of 1933. This also led to the estabilishment of the Securities Exchange Commission in 1934. The SEC has 5 commissioners appointed by the president who server 5 year terms (that expire in separate years).

The SEC is made up of several divisions:

The Division of Corporate Finance: is responsible for making sure public companies file their 10-K (annual reports) and 10-Q (Quarterly reports). It also reviews S-1's (applications to go public).

The Division of Investment Management: is responsible for governing the compliance of mutual funds. It also oversees public utilities.

The Division of Market Regulation: liasons with Self Regulation Organizations (SRO) such as NASD to ensure that their constitutions and practices adhere to the rules of federal securities acts.

The Division of Enforcement: investigates and prosecutes violations of securities fraud and crime. For example this division tracked down several instances of touting (making outlandish claims of stock performance without disclosing the financial incentive being paid for making said claims).

The General Counsel and office of compliance inspections support the SEC divisions.

Posted at 08:21 PM

Stock Markets

A quick overview of the different markets and what they cater to.

The NYSE is the oldest stock exchange in the country. It started, when a group of traders exchanged stocks under a buttonwood tree on Broad Street N.Y. The NYSE then moved to its current location on 18. Broad Street.

In order to be listed on the NYSE a company needs to have:

1. atleast $40 million in tangible assets
2. atleast 2 outside directors (and an audit committee)
3. atleast 2 years of positive earnings (this is a flexible requirement).

Trades at the NYSE are performed via the public out-cry method where the traders quote prices till parties are in agreement. Traders meet at a trading post for a stock on the exchange floor. Current chief Dick Grasso is often credited with the resurgence of the NYSE in recent years.

The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System NASDAQ was then formally founded in 1971. It originally began as an agreement to exchange trades over the telephone. Now all trades are performed electronically with no physical trading floor. There two NASDAQ levels. The National Market trades about 4,000 premium stocks with many qualifying to trade at the NYSE but choosing to remain with the NASDAQ. The Small Cap markets provides the prestige of trading at a regulated exchange for smaller companies.

The American Stock Exchange or AMEX began as an informal gathering of brokers meeting outside the NYSE to trade stocks that could not gain entry to the NYSE. The National Association of Securities Dealers then bought Amex and combined the two markets into NASDAQ-Amex market group. Amex now plays a role in trading derivatives and options.

Regional Exchanges: The US also has several regiional exchanges (Boston Stock Exchange, Philadelphia stock exchange, etc) to handle smaller companies at the local scene. However these exchanges also tend to deal with options and derivatives.

Finally stocks that once listed at the premier exchanges and fell out of favor and ended up no longer meeting the minimum requirements end up trading OTC (Over the Counter). These stocks also go by the name pink-sheet stocks. A vestige of the days when OTC stocks were listed on a pink piece of paper.

Posted at 08:06 PM

Taxes and Income.

A new bookMyth of Ownership claims that we are wrong in griping about the govt taking some of our income away. The New York Times and the Cato institute have reviewed this book.

Posted at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Friedman at it again.

Friedman at it again.

Posted at 09:53 AM

April 23, 2002

fuel economy. supply vs demand side

I read a quote recently that very clearly identified the problem behind the proliferation of gas guzzling monstrosities distributed under the abbreviation S.U.V.

First a background. The U.S. government attempts to regulate and limit the production of high gas consumption vehicles through a mechanism called CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy). The fuel economy rating for a manufacturers fleet of passenger cars must average atleast 27.5 mpg. Failure to meet this results in a fine of $5.00 per 0.1 mpg that it falls behind.

The quote I read said something to the effect:

trying to control gas consumption by forcing manufacturers to adhere to CAFE is like trying to reduce obesity in America by reducing the manufacture of XL shirt sizes.

Posted at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

Child-free?

Recently the child-free counter-movement seems to be gaining more ground. I suspect it affects males less than it affects females. Ms. Kahn shares her view point.

Posted at 02:35 PM

Death

To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they know quite well that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?
Socrates --Quoted in Plato's Apology
Posted at 10:24 AM

April 22, 2002

Hadrian's wall

Hadrian became the emperor of Rome in 117 A.D. Rome's expansion had ceased by then and he attempted to consolidate his empire. Rome had estabilished dominance over most of Europe and Britain. However Rome hadnt been able to control the tribes of Scotland.

He ordered a wall built to separate the Roman empire from the Barbarians.Hadrian's wall was built between solway firth and River Tyne.

Posted at 11:29 AM

The worst inventions

We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity - romantic love and gunpowder.

--Andre Maurois

Posted at 09:23 AM

Men at fault.

Sylvia Hewlett's new book claims that 'having-it-all' for the modern woman is more fiction than fact. This has provoked vituperative diatribes from several female journalists on a man's inability to accept a smart woman. Now a response

Posted at 09:22 AM

April 19, 2002

inspiration


Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer
--Studies in Pessimism

Posted at 09:25 AM

April 18, 2002

The cost of words

Google charges more for some ad words than it does for others. For example having your ad show up in response to a search for bin Laden is more than say net art. Someone had an interesting experience with adwords. To set up adwords go to Google

Posted at 09:02 AM

April 17, 2002

the new divorce

http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?critics/020422crbo_books

Posted at 10:02 AM

April 09, 2002

Rant on social vacousness

begin_rant
Social interactions are lubricated with vacuous phrases that accomplish nothing of consequence other than to serve notice that an unwanted encounter is about to occur.

Why else would you say "whats up?", "how's it going?" to begin a transaction at the grocery check out line? What purpose does it serve to terminate the aforementioned transaction with "Have a good one!".

Corporate policy has indoctrinated the serfs to perform these sense-less acts of courtesy. We have in turn accepted these exchanges as protocol to be observed without question.

end_rant.

have a good one!

Posted at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

Broken Windows

There is a theory in police enforcement that if petty crimes like graffitti, broken windows, vandalism were punished harshly then the more dangerous crimes will be curbed. The thinking is that letting small offences go un-punished sends the signal that society is lax.

For a detailed look at this theory

Posted at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

April 05, 2002

Rome burnt. Nero played the what?

In 64 A.D. a fire broke out in Rome's slum. It burnt for a week and voraciously consumed acre after acre of the district. Nero who was away at the time returned immediately. He opened up his palace to the homeless and assisted in the rebuilding. So moved was he by the scene that he composed a song about the burning of Troy. (Romans believed that Trojans had founded Rome). The fiddle required several centuries of human toil to be invented. It is presumed Nero might have had to make do with the lyre.

A rumor arose that Nero had started the fire to build a new palace. Sensing the anger that was fermenting Nero's aides started a counter rumor blaming the Christians.

Posted at 08:59 PM

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar as a young man attempted to buy influence with money. While he was able to buy influence he was fast running out of money. As a young man about to embark on a military career in Gaul he realized that he was deep in debt. A miracle was needed to turn his life around.

Fortunately, Caesar was in the miracle business. His victories in Gaul and England resulted in his coffers being enriched quite handsomly. He also built himself an intensely loyal and effective army.

Cicero, then a Roman senator decided that Caesar was becoming too powerful and needed to have his power curbed. He was brought up on false charges and ordered to return to Rome to stand trial. Caesar returned with his army to the banks of the Rubicon (the boundary demarcating his province from Rome). (A rule enacted by Sulla ( a general who had marched on Rome earlier) prohibited a proconsul from taking his army outside his province.

After negotiations failed Caesar issued the order to cross the Rubicon thus breaking the law with only one outcome war. The Senators led by Pompey lost the battle to Caesar. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered by his hosts who learnt of Caesar's march towards Egypt. One side-effect of Caesar's visit to Egypt was his acquaintance with its 17 year old Pharoah, Cleopatra.

Finally quelling the disturbances that had risen in the Roman empire after the civil war Caesar returned to Rome triumphant with the placard veni, vidi, vici

Posted at 08:44 PM

Hannibal crosses the alps

A platitude as old as platitudes themselves details Hannibal going across the alps. This phrase evokes images of elephants trudging through the snow out of France and into Italy. Hannibal did not make it out of the alps unscathed. At several points his army was attacked from heights with rolling boulders. He was able to make it into Roman territory by crossing the Rhone river upstream from the bridges.

Hannibal was a Carthaginian general who escaped from Spain and took the fight to the Roman Empire in Italy. The mention of his name provoked intense fear in the heart of the bravest Roman.

Terms:

Carthage: city state in N.Africa. Present day Tunisia.
Punic: Roman word for Carthage.
Punic Wars: Started over the city of Messana on the island of Sicily (circa 260 B.C.).
Second Punic War: Hannibal started fighting in Spain, but gave the Roman army the slip and headed over the Pyrenees.
Battle of Cannae: The elected Roman consuls attacked Hannibal near Cannae. Hannibal once again outfoxed the Romans who were massacred. The fleeing Roman soldiers were hamstrung (their hamstrings cut to prevent their escape) and then killed.
Fabius Maximus The Roman dictator who preferred to chase Hannibal rather than meet him in the field.
Third Punic War: Rome finally went to battle to destroy Carthage. A pitched battle ensued which continued door to door till finally in 146 B.C. the last starving garrison surrendered. Carthage was destroyed, its citizen sold into slavery.

Read more about the Punic Wars

Posted at 04:47 PM

suck it up


maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.
maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.


i'm a pixie,
i'm a paper doll,
i'm a cartoon,
i'm a chipper cheerful free-for-all,
and i light up a room.

i'm a color-me-happy girl,
miss live and let live
, and when they're out for blood,
i always give.

the man behind the counter looks like he's got a half a dozen places he'd rather be.
and furthermore he looks like he's prepared to take it all out on me. buddy, i don't really care what your problem is, just don't make it mine.

come on kids, let's all hold hands and pretend we're having a good time.
maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.

maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.

all the privileged white kids on tv playing at death,
brandishing their cold cuts with their ghostly make-up
and their heroin breath.
and all the little fishies flapping wildly on their hooks,
while all the top critics find great meaning in the telephone book.
the little emperor, he has no clothes, so he can't come out to play,

and besides which life is suffering,
and he likes it that way.
and the little guy is not so friendly but you know life has been cruel,
so wipe that smile off your face, baby, and try to be cool.

maybe you don't like your job,
maybe you didn't get enough sleep.
well nobody likes their job,
nobody got enough sleep.
maybe you just had the worst day of your life,
but you know, there's no escape and there's no excuse,
so just suck up and be nice.

yeah, i'd like to perfect the art of being studiously aloof,
like life is just a boring chore and i'm living proof.
i could join forces with an army of ornery hipsters,
but then i guess i'd be out of a job.
so i guess that's out of the picture.

'cuz i'm a pixie,
i'm a paper doll,
i'm a cartoon,
i'm a chipper cheerful free-for-all,
and i light up a room.
i'm a color- me-happy girl,
miss live and let live,
and when they're out for blood, i always give.


Annie Defranco - Pixie - Little Plastic Candles

Posted at 02:12 PM

April 04, 2002

Lorem Ipsum et al

I've often wondered about the origin of the Latin text used by sites to demonstrate text layout. Turns out the passage is an excerpt from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum (in Latin)(a treatise on theory of ethics).

It is presumed that this text surfaced in the early days of the printing press and has survived into the modern information age thanks to man's innate laziness and proclivity to copy-n-paste.

Got it from the Straight Dope

One example of the lorem text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.


April 03, 2002

Shoes, Socks and Business Tricks

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the bastion for Wahabi conservatism denies its female citizens several basic freedoms and rights. The intrinsic female instinct to care for one's appearance cannot be supressed. A Saudi woman can shop for clothes but cannot try them out at her Jeddah mall. To circumvent this problem she has until now visited the centers of haute-coutré in the west.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal the intrepid Saudi investor has participated in the opening of a female-only mall in Riyadh. Staffed exclusively by women, the mall prohibits the entrance of men during the hours of operation. Saudi gals can let down their hair and charge up a storm (whoa! vortex of clichés) at this exclusive shopping area.

This is another fine example of how the free market economy is all about meeting the needs of the people at the price the people decide. Enough demand will eventually be satisfied with an increase in supply.

Read more at Forbes.com

Posted at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2002

Relativism

Quite often, especially in the matters of religion, people take the opinon that everyone is entitled to a true belief (we can agree to disagree). Relativism is essentially the thesis that all points of view are accurate. The problem with this approach is that even a view that relativism is wrong is accorded validity.

A term that often shows up in the language today is moral relativism. As a neophyte philosopher moral relativism makes sense to me in the context of existentialism (Existence before essence), good/bad is determined uniquely and individually and aggregated by cultures and communities.

The counter argument is that there is infact essence before existence. Good does exist. Children must be taken care off. We must not harm others.

I'd put my money on Sartre and Camus on this one. It is facile to a person steeped in the western centric judaeo-christian ethic to propose that all other approaches to ethics are wrong.

Posted at 09:25 PM | Comments (1)

Russell's paradox

Bertrand Russell discovered the Russell's paradox while working on his Principles of Mathematics. The essence of the paradox is:

Consider a set that contains all sets. Does it contain itself? If it doesnt contain itself then it cant be a set that contains all sets. Now consider the set of sets that dont contain themselves. If that set doesnt contain itself then it can't be a set of all sets that contain themselves. But by containing itself it now precludes it from the original condition

More information at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Posted at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

All good things come to an end

Over the last 3-4 years the insane enthusiasm of venture capitalists (Its the new economy stupid!) has brought a plethora of neat, ill conceived, totally unsustainable ideas to the internet. Now, in total desperation as the falling bank balances extinguish their aspirations these companies start charging for their services. The End of Free chronicles these efforts at survival.

Posted at 10:36 AM

web widgets for everyone

DomApi is a collection of LGPL'ed web widgets. (DHTML for browsers > 5.0).

Posted at 10:33 AM
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