Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Can Be Good For You

Once, maybe twice, in every pre-teen boy's life comes the dreaded Leap Day when girls are apt to do any number of silly things to 1) show their "affection", 2) bring the victim unwanted attention in front of a group, and 3) demonstrate how bewildering and strange social relations can be. Rest assured, the experience will get better as one gets older.

For adults, generally speaking, Leap Day helps the finances:
Feb. 29 means a free day of cable, rent, car insurance or Netflix -- services with monthly rates that do not increase as a result of the bonus day. On the downside, salaried workers earn a tiny fraction less per day.
Leap Day is an extra day to make progress on New Year's resolutions and to prepare tax returns. For us it was an opportunity to clear some of our closets and organize the used-clothing bins at the church.

Tomorrow the truck from PARCA will come to pick up the donation, which goes to assist developmentally disabled children and adults on the Peninsula. A win-win for this Leap Day.

[Update: today's Google Doodle honors the composer Gioachino Rossini, who was born on February 29, 1892. Rossini was famous for the William Tell overture, without which Disney and Warner Brothers cartoons would have been much poorer.]

Red Ponchos at Morning

The trail was slick from the rain, so we limited our walk to the 4.5-mile Wildcat Loop. We huffed to the top of the 900-foot trail, then returned to the car.

We paused at Deer Hollow Farm, about a mile from the parking lot, to stare at the goats and hogs that reciprocated with total unconcern.

Busloads of children from the Alum Rock school district assembled in red ponchos. The red makes a wayward student easier to spot, but as anyone who has played with red or yellow golf balls will tell you, a bright primary color is not an infallible method for distinguishing an object.

Parents could rest easy because there was one adult chaperone for every two kids. No red riding hoods would be lost in the woods today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wild Parrots of Brisbane

(Chronicle photo)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill have expanded their reach to Brisbane (the small town just south of San Francisco, not the city in Australia). The parrots have avoided the hazards of red-tailed hawks and cold weather mentioned in the 2003 documentary.
San Francisco's famed flock of cherry-headed conures, immortalized in an award-winning movie and book, has become so populous that about 100 or so birds have fled San Francisco for the verdant slopes of San Bruno Mountain, where they're feasting on juniper and hawthorn berries and delighting the locals with their acrobatics.
It took the second flock eight years to find a home ten miles south of Telegraph Hill. If they continue to migrate at that rate, we may see them in the San Mateo hills in twelve years. (They're unlikely to cross the freeway and nest in Foster City.)

Because the parrots are attractive and intelligent, they're not now regarded as a nuisance. If their numbers continue to grow, however, one never knows. © 2012 Stephen Yuen

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Trend I Can Live Without

At gatherings of family and friends most people refrain from talking about religion and politics. People have deeply held and often opposing opinions, and introducing difficult topics is like bringing a skunk to the garden party.

I like social-media sites because they are a way of staying connected to family, friends, and business colleagues. But now these connections are being exploited by politicians:
Dave Boyce is CEO of Fundly, a ready-made platform for nonprofits, including political campaigns, to launch social media fundraising campaigns. He says that at the end of the 2010 election cycle, 120 political customers were using Fundly to raise money. Now the number is 10 times that. The campaigns range from local races to the presidential efforts of Republicans Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and a Newt Gingrich PAC.

"The big idea is that giving is social. It always has been," says Boyce, sitting in a glass conference room looking out at a team of programmers in an office decorated in startup chic. "Friends ask friends to join them in supporting a cause."
This is a trend I can live without. If I want to read about politics, my e-mail and regular mail inboxes are filled with junk mail from across the political spectrum. There's also an invention known as the Internet that makes it really easy to look up a topic without assistance from a political partisan.

I don't want to see my Facebook wall or news feed plastered with politics. Maybe, once in a blue moon, I'll post an entreaty for a (non-political) charity that I care about.

But no politics or religion, please. If you want to say something about those subjects, get a blog.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Productivity vs. Reproductivity

Time is running out if a couple wants to have a dragon baby:
Couples have until about mid-May to conceive in time for a birth before the Dragon year ends, and many are sure to ask doctors to induce labor as Feb. 10 nears.
Asians comprise 23% of the Bay Area population, and it's a fair bet that the Asian percentage is at least that high in the electronics industry.

Silicon Valley companies may see declining productivity during the next three months because workers are preoccupied with other matters. At least we'll know why.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

They're Different from You and Me

The $200 Million Man (WSJ photo)
Graffiti artist David Choe took stock instead of cash for painting the offices of a Palo Alto startup in 2005. When Facebook goes public later this year, Mr. Choe's equity interest could be worth $200 million. (Some of his artwork may be seen here.)

The Wall Street Journal writes about the difficulties faced by David Choe, Jeremy Lin, and other beneficiaries of sudden riches. Most of us think that we would love to have the problems of the nouveau riche. But there are any number of ways that wealth could slip through their fingers, including 1) not acquiring competent financial, tax, and legal help, 2) consorting with "friends" and relatives who do not have their best interests at heart, and 3) impulsive spending.

Too often we hear about a case of a formerly rich entertainer or athlete who is now broke. Most recently the case of NBA star Allen Iverson, who reportedly has nothing to show for the $200 million earned during his career, is a cautionary tale.

I am unfamiliar with the art of David Choe, but from a quick perusal of his website and art, I detect a sensibility that indicates he'll probably take better care of his $200 million than Allen Iverson did his. I'm rooting for him.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Apple Shareholders Meeting

The line for the second overflow room
Although I arrived at 9:30 for the 10 a.m. meeting, I couldn't get into the main hall for the Apple shareholders meeting. We were bused to the second overflow room, where Tim Cook et al. appeared on the big screen. The audio and video were actually better than watching them live at a distance, which I did in 2010.

With the mail-in and online proxies already having decided the business issues by overwhelming majorities, we sped through the agenda until we got to the #1 issue in the mind of most investors: was Apple going to pay a dividend? (Interestingly, the issue was raised by the first questioner, who pleaded with Mr. Cook not to pay a dividend and focus on rationalizing the video streaming business.) There was no new news: Tim reiterated that the Board is considering the matter "deeply" and that Apple will make this and other decisions "in the best interests of the shareholders."

After reminding us that Apple has spent billions on its supply chain, Apple stores, and corporate acquisitions, he gave a very strong signal that some form of equity distribution (or buyback) will occur this year: Apple has more cash than it needs "to run the company."

There were moments of levity:

  • Concerning the change to majority-vote election of the directors, TC remarked that even that system is not perfect, as Director Al Gore knows.

  • One shareholder said that he bought a large flat-panel TV for the Super Bowl and had another month to return it. Should he do so? Everyone laughed about the allusion to the rumored iTV, but TC remained tight-lipped, saying that the shareholder should buy the $99 Apple TV add-on to enhance the viewing experience on his flat-panel.

  • The same wit said that he was tired of Greece being in the news and that Apple should use its cash hoard to "buy Greece." TC congratulated him on coming up with a use that Apple had not thought of.

    No one spoiled the party by bringing up working conditions in China.

    In response to a question about funding scholarships, TC talked about the many ways that Apple is supporting education: through matching donations (up to $10,000 per employee, who channel a large amount to educational institutions), discounts and giveaways to schools and students, summer internships, and free software. He encouraged everyone to try the new iBooks app, particularly the new iBooks Author which makes it easy to put together an electronic publication.

    The meeting was over in an hour. Next year I probably won't bother to go, especially since Apple doesn't give out free stuff like Google. But that's okay, I'd rather have a $500 billion market cap plus a good chance at a dividend.
  • Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Ash Wednesday

    Lent is a time for reflection, but during our efforts to honor the season we can be distracted.

    At the Ash Wednesday service the priest explained that traditional Lenten activities--giving of alms, prayer, and fasting--can be co-opted for other purposes.

    For example, alms-giving is often joined with a fund-raising campaign for particular charities. The charities and their goals may be very worthy, but fund-raising is not the principal purpose of Lent. We are to set aside the concerns of the self and the world and concentrate on our relationship with God.

    Similarly, the purpose of a fasting regimen is not to make progress on a New Year's resolution to lose weight. That would be mixing our objectives and our focus. Our eyes may gaze up to the heavens or be lowered in prayer, but they shouldn't be looking in the mirror.

    The busy-ness of the world distracts us from the fundamental truth that we won't be around forever. That's why the priest imposes the ashes in the middle of the service and repeats:
    Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Don't Resist the Wave

    Netflix has been the best performing stock in our January 6, 2012 portfolio, when we "purchased" it for $86.29 per share. After reaching an intra-day high of $130.60 on February 6th and subsequently trading in the high-$120's, NFLX was hit by a selling wave yesterday when Comcast announced it was offering a streaming-video service.

    I still think Netflix has the best product and will maintain its lead in streaming video. But Amazon is already a competitor, and there are rumors that satellite provider DirecTV will enter the market. It's best not to resist the wave. We'll sell Netflix from our portfolio at today's closing price and look to buy back in when the competitive landscape is clearer.

    As of this writing NFLX is still 27% higher than when we bought it in January.

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Pancake Supper

    The International House of Pancakes didn't have free flapjacks this year, but we went anyway. Without the special promotion, the dining room was much less crowded than last time.

    Though it was dinner time, we ordered sausage, eggs, and pancakes. On Fat Tuesday tradition says that we should empty the larder.

    Fortunately IHOP was only a mile away and saved us the trouble of mixing a proper dinner of fats, sugar, and salt. We'll (try to) make up for tonight's excess by abstaining during Lent, which starts tomorrow.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    The Allure of Appoggiatura

    Psychologists and musicologists have analyzed how music produces physical reactions like goosebumps and tears. One reason is appoggiatura:
    An appoggiatura is a type of ornamental note that clashes with the melody just enough to create a dissonant sound. "This generates tension in the listener," said Martin Guhn, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who co-wrote a 2007 study on the subject. "When the notes return to the anticipated melody, the tension resolves, and it feels good." [snip]

    Chill-provoking passages, [researchers] found, shared at least four features [bullets added].
  • They began softly and then suddenly became loud.
  • They included an abrupt entrance of a new "voice," either a new instrument or harmony.
  • And they often involved an expansion of the frequencies played. In one passage from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 (K. 488), for instance, the violins jump up one octave to echo the melody.
  • Finally, all the passages contained unexpected deviations in the melody or the harmony. Music is most likely to tingle the spine, in short, when it includes surprises in volume, timbre and harmonic pattern.
  • In the 20tn century we were alarmed by how easily the emotions of the masses could be manipulated by propagandists and hidden persuaders. In the 21st century brain scans and other "advances" have pushed the science far beyond what Riefenstahl could have imagined.

    Your humble servant was able to resist the emotional pull of Adele's Grammy winning "Someone Like You", which was analyzed in the article. However, when one adds a dash of patriotism, visual spectacle, a well-known standard, and a great singer at the height of her powers, then yes, I get the chills.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Safe Haven

    Prohibition taught us that the costs and side effects of enforcement can outweigh the cost of the misbehavior itself. Legalization of so-called "victimless" crimes is one solution. Another is the creation of red light districts, safe havens for otherwise proscribed behavior.

    Comedy is a safe haven for racism, sexism, gay-bashing (non-physical), and general cultural insensitivity. Our human weakness demands that we have this outlet.

    Last night's Saturday Night Live opening has it all (the topic is Jeremy Lin, naturally): Asian stereotypes and black stereotypes, all leavened with hypocritical sanctimony.

    And yes, I laughed too.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012


    ESPN screenshot captured by Larry Brown Sports
    There's still too much racism in America, and that's not big news. The insults sting less over time, though, because of the knowledge that the epithets boomerang far worse upon the speaker than upon the target. People are free to speak, insult, and mock, but they are not free from the consequences of speech. Whoever wrote the ESPN headline is likely to get fired or at least reprimanded.

    Most Americans have curtailed the use of words (e.g., coon, chink, fairy, retarded) whose secondary meanings are considered offensive to certain groups. (Even "niggardly" is now off limits because it just sounds too much like another word.)

    It must also be said that there's too much political correctness and hyper-sensitivity. Allowances need to be made for the age of the speaker. Older people who grew up using now-objectionable words and phrases should be cut some slack. It's not easy to change habits built up over a lifetime. To the offended: please relax, the language will soon pass from the scene.

    Back to ESPN, however. It's a media company whose products are images, words, music, and moving pictures. It won't do to say, disingenuously, that "chink in the armor" is a venerable and appropriate phrase. In the context of the first Knicks loss with Jeremy Lin as a starter, the headline writer conveyed the double meaning he intended. He must have really fallen in love with his own wittiness, because the boomerang will be painful.

    [Update - 2/19 ESPN statement: “We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again,” the network said in a statement. “We regret and apologize for this mistake."]

    [Update - 2/20: After ESPN fired him, the headline writer apologized and said that he meant no insult, having used the phrase "at least 100 times."]

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    It Stinks

    This post is about one of my worst stock investments.

    New York sports fans are miffed about the contract dispute between Time Warner and MSG Network. In order to get their fix of "Lin-sanity" about two million viewers have had to go to sports bars or friends' homes with DirecTV or Cablevision subcriptions.

    Dialogue from today's CNBC Squawk Box:
    CNBC anchor David Faber: "If you have Time Warner, by the way, you're going to have to find [Knicks games] on the radio. I had to actually go out and buy an AM radio. It's been 48 days, 17 games, that have so far been missed by fans of the Knicks."

    CNBC anchor Melissa Lee: "David, where do you even buy a radio these days...Radio Shack?"

    David Faber: "Yeah, yeah, you can go to Radio Shack, you gotta go back into the back room." [Far away gesture with hands]

    Melissa Lee: "Dust them off? Cobwebs?" [Brushing away motion]

    David Faber: "It's 1980's, 1990's inventory." [Hilarity ensues.]
    I feel bad enough about my Radio Shack investment. Now it's the subject of gratuitous mockery on CNBC. (I bought some RSH last May because I thought that they were one of the few electronics retailers who knew what they were doing. Boy, was I wrong.)

    RSH has dropped nearly 60% since I bought it.

    The comment about radios in the back room reminds me of an old joke about accounting inventory methods:

    FIFO - First-in, first-out
    LIFO - Last-in, first-out
    FISH - First-in, still here

    Not laughing so hard when it happens to you.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    Jeremy Lin Quantitative Analysis

    The WSJ analyzes the various factors that have made the Jeremy Lin story an international phenomenon. As a public service we have re-sorted the list using the Journal's scoring:
    Chinese/Taiwanese/American background                  25%
    The novelty of Lin's Harvard roots                     18%
    The fact that he happened to land in New York          13%
    Injuries to Knicks players and faulty 
        scouting of other teams                            10%
    Sleeping on his brother's couch                         9%
    A last name that's a headline writer's dream come true  8%
    His Tebow-like religious conviction                     5%
    Making his debut during the post-Super Bowl malaise     4%
    The phenom-amplifying power of social media             3%
    The Knicks' schedule has some lousy teams               3%
    When asked, Kobe Bryant said he knew nothing about him  1%
    Lin's struts, head nods and tongue waggles              1%
    The article is clearly tongue-in-cheek, so one ought not to be too critical. That said, I believe the importance of #4, "faulty scouting", to the story has been under-rated and even misnamed.

    Throughout his life, not just in the NBA, Jeremy Lin was overlooked. Stanford, UCLA, and other March madness schools wouldn't recruit him out of Palo Alto High. He was undrafted by the NBA though he was all-Ivy and helped Harvard beat college powerhouse UConn.

    The real story, in my humble opinion, is his persistence in the face of adversity. He refused to abandon his chosen path, though his talents were not recognized by most basketball experts. In a time when we wonder if it still exists, Jeremy Lin shows that the American dream is still alive.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Billionaires Are Fallible, Too

    As someone who continues to hold Apple stock but sold Google shares too soon last year, my regrets and alarm were ratcheted up by the following headline:

    It turned out that the report was about billionaire George Soros' investment moves for the fourth quarter of 2011. How have the shares fared after he sold Apple and bought Google?

    Apple is up 25.8%, while Google is down 5.6% since December 31st. Mr. Soros would have been much better off if he just stood pat. (These percentages are not exact because the purchases and sales likely did not occur on December 31st.)

    It's nice to know that once in a while we can make better decisions than a billionaire. Meanwhile, Mr. Soros is laughing all the way to the banks and mutual funds that he controls while we have to get up early to go to work.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Still Strong After Fifty Years

    I first heard the song on the car radio. The stations played it repeatedly all across the country. This week marks the 50th anniversary of its recording in a New York studio.

    Sympathy Dissipated

    The banks are again taking their lumps, most recently for the delays in granting relief to borrowers on the brink of foreclosure. In the public mind the banks still haven't received punishment for the past decade's relentless pursuit of "flip" profits on risky financial deals, then leaving taxpayers to hold the bag when the losses proved too much for them to absorb. The payouts of big bonuses to people who caused the mess poured salt in the public's wounds.

    In the current environment it's very tough to manage a bank: they have been directed to lessen the risky assets that they are holding and make more loans---contradictory actions that are like stepping on the gas and the brakes at the same time. Nevertheless, their incessant search for fees from everyone, even in areas totally removed from mortgage lending, immediately dissipates any sympathy.

    In 2012 I enrolled in a high-deductible health plan and opened a Health Savings Account to pay the HDHP's out-of-pocket expenses. (HSAs have a number of advantages, principally tax-deductible contributions and tax-deferred earnings.) I opened the HSA at the Bank of America and tried to write a $3,000 check from one of my two Bank of America checking accounts to fund the account. I wanted to pay for some prescriptions from the HSA and couldn't imagine that there would be a problem, since we have had loans and accounts with B of A since the 1980's.

    The alarm bell should have gone off when the local branch said that they could not handle what appeared to be a simple transfer. A couple of phone calls later, I found that I was able to make the transfer online. The funds were immediately debited from my checking account:

    The $3,000 was removed from the account on a Monday

    By the third day the funds still had not appeared in the HSA:

    As of Wednesday night the $3,000 had not appeared.

    The Customer Service person said that the transfer would take five to seven business days because it "had to go through the Federal Reserve". There is no good conclusion that one can reach from this explanation. Either: 1) the Bank had instructed its CSR's to give an explanation that was patently false, or 2) a small $ transfer between accounts in the same bank does have to be handled by the Federal Reserve, which could be one reason why the banking system is messed up. I am inclined towards (1), which means I'll be looking for a new HSA bank next year.

    Oh, yes, the $ did appear in day 4, I did refill my prescriptions, and the bank promptly deducted its $4.50 monthly fee last week.

    Monday, February 13, 2012


    We know that we are getting on in years when the icons of our adulthood pass away, and they're younger than we are.

    Whitney Houston not only had the voice of an angel; she controlled it as magnificently as Da Vinci wielded a paint brush. She could hold a note perfectly and unwaveringly, or let it skip up and down the scale, keeping it separate from the accompaniment until the end when they all landed together in major triumph. And she was beautiful, too, as beautiful as Taylor Swift is today, but her voice was much stronger and clearer than Taylor's. When Whitney Houston was at the height of her powers she succumbed to human weakness and was hurt by those who should have helped her. Her death on Saturday, after a long decline, was not shocking, but the event does throw cold water on our belief (hope) that it's never too late to correct our mistakes or improve our lives.

    Freddie Solomon, who played on two of the 49er Super Bowl teams, died of cancer today. Freddie Solomon was the "speed" wide receiver that was essential to the operation of the Bill Walsh offense, which spread passes around to tight ends, running backs, and "possession" wide receivers like Dwight Clark. Freddie tutored Jerry Rice though he knew Jerry would take his job. A relaxing retirement was not for Freddie.
    After his playing days, he devoted himself to community service in Tampa. He worked with youths for 20 years through a program with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He also teamed with former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, a Tampa resident and close friend, on an annual Christmas celebration for foster children.
    Freddie Solomon did not receive the awards given to his more famous teammates, but in character and generosity he was among the greatest of 49ers.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Transfiguration Episcopal Church

    Transfiguration Episcopal Church has reconstructed its worship space to be more open and let in more light, worthy objectives for a church even when the subject is not buildings-and-grounds [that's how we designate property, plant, and equipment in the church world].

    The moveable pews can easily be re-arranged to accommodate traditional and informal liturgies. The hardwood floors and variable lighting capability add to the ambience.

    The stained glass windows extend nearly to the floor, where comfortable cushions invite the visitor to kneel and contemplate (or, in my case, sit and gather wool---sigh, google the idiom yourself).

    Like many other Episcopal churches, Transfiguration was built many years ago on property that would be prohibitively expensive to acquire today. The reconstructed sanctuary sits on a hill on the mid-Peninsula. The parish is well situated to weather storms in the years ahead.

    Saturday, February 11, 2012

    Lymphatic Malformation

    From Johns Hopkins
    (Good) Viagra news that won't be made into a joke:
    In very early reports, sildenafil - best known under the brand name Viagra and sold as a treatment for erectile dysfunction - reduced the size of growths in three children with lymphatic malformation, a disease that causes spongy cysts to swell and clog up the lymphatic system.
    Viagra was originally developed to treat high-blood pressure and became popular due to a beneficial side effect in males.

    Plaudits to Stanford doctors  for discovering and now researching another side effect that could make a great difference in a few children's lives.

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Not A Jeremy Lin Blog, But...

    The Jeremy Lin story has gotten even bigger with the 38 points he scored in the Knicks' 92-85 win over the Lakers on Friday night in Madison Square Garden.

    Sports experts would not have been surprised if the Lin express would have come to a screeching halt--or at least been slowed down a bit--when the Knicks played five-time world champ Kobe Bryant. Instead, Jeremy Lin scored the most points by a Knick this season and nailed baskets at critical junctures in the game.

    Adding to the luster of his performance was the fact that the game was on national TV. In recent weeks we have seen instances of choking by young athletes when their big moment arrives. Jeremy Lin is grabbing opportunity by the neck and riding it to the moon.

    [Update - 2/11: What do you expect from a Dragon? It's his (our) year!
    “Of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, the Dragon is the most special, as it is a mystical being rather than an earthly animal....In this context that means we can expect grand things this year. Bigger than life is very much a Dragon thing.”]
    [Update - 2/12: He showed signs of exhaustion after a grueling five games in seven days, plus defenses that have learned to bang him harder as he drives inside, but Jeremy Lin again led the Knicks to victory in Minnesota last night:
    Although Lin scored 20 points in the Knicks’ 100-98 victory over Minnesota for his fifth consecutive 20-point game, he struggled to do so. Lin, the newest Knicks sensation, shot 8 for 24 from the field, had six turnovers, and managed only 5 points in the second half.

    But he still became the first player in N.B.A. history to post at least 20 points and 7 assists in his first four starts...]

    Thursday, February 09, 2012

    Jeremy Lin

    We remarked below how "unknown" point guard Jeremy Lin has risen to the top of the sports universe this week by leading the New York Knickerbockers to victories over the Jazz and the Nets. He did it again last night against the Washington Wizards:
    Jeremy Lin, the undrafted Harvard economics graduate, has now played 111 meaningful minutes of NBA basketball since the weekend. He's scored a combined 76 points, become a national phenomenon, won three games and blown a few minds.

    He is part Steve Nash, part Paul Bunyan and late Wednesday night, after the Knicks beat the Washington Wizards 107-93, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni called him "for real." So stop rubbing your eyes—it's not a dream.
    Three attributes widely regarded as positives in the rest of society--Harvard degree, Asian-American, 6'3" height--were obstacles to Jeremy Lin's acceptance by NBA teams; it is an understatement to say that expectations for him were low.

    His underdog status, his performance on the biggest media stage during the quiet period between the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament, his sincere understated Christianity, and his growing international (especially Asian) following make Jeremy Lin a public relations dream.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2012

    Go East, Young Man

    Chico, California native Aaron Rodgers was a star quarterback for Cal-Berkeley, but the 49ers chose Alex Smith ahead of him. Aaron Rodgers went to Green Bay and became the NFL and Super Bowl MVP.

    San Mateo-born Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl five times (won 3, lost 2) and has been named the league- and Super-Bowl MVP on multiple occasions.

    Vallejo High graduate CC Sabathia won the Cy Young award and signed a seven-year $161 million contract with the New York Yankees in 2009. That is the largest contract ever granted to a pitcher.

    The latest successful Northern California export is Jeremy Lin, who played basketball at Palo Alto High. Stanford didn't try to recruit him, and Jeremy became an economics major at Harvard, where he was an all-Ivy basketballer in his junior and senior years. Undrafted by the NBA, he played occasionally in 2010 for the Golden State Warriors, who waived him in 2011. When the New York Knicks' starting guards couldn't play because of injury and family tragedy, Jeremy led the Knicks to victory over the Nets and Jazz. Two games do not a season or career make, but the signs are promising.
    Mark 6:3-4 "Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor."

    Tuesday, February 07, 2012

    Great Moments in Intellectual Property

    What they said at the 1983 meeting between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, when Microsoft announced plans for the graphical interface "Windows":
    Jobs: "You're ripping us off! I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!"

    Gates: "Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."

    --From Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

    Monday, February 06, 2012

    A Reason to Be Glad the Patriots Lost

    Extra reporter and Patriots fan Maria Menounos paid off her Super Bowl bet by appearing in a bikini on national TV. I had a slight rooting interest because of Bay Area native Tom Brady. Any disappointment from a Patriots loss has now been dispelled.

    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    Super Bowl XLVI - The Best Ever

    ...production. The commercials and the half-time show reflect the expenditure of many millions of dollars. Madonna's production was visually extravagant, aurally pleasing but not chills-down-your-spine memorable. Some of the commercials - Matthew Broderick's spoof of his Ferris Bueller role, "king" Elton John's Pepsi commercial--are outstanding.

    9:25 ET - As for the game, currently Patriots 17, Giants 15, with eight minutes remaining, it's feeling like it could have one of the all-time great endings. With one probable Hall-of-Fame quarterback facing a possible Hall-of-Fame opponent, all the ingredients are there for a wow finish.

    9:32 ET - Patriots with a two-point lead are in the midst of a clock-killing drive. Tom Brady misses a wide-open Wes Welker, then another open receiver. Punt. 3:46 left. Giants start on their own 12. Here we go.

    9:37 ET - Outstanding catch by Manningham along the sidelines. Giants now at midfield. Field goal will put the Giants ahead by one. Another pass to Manningham. Giants are within field goal range on the NE 35 with 2:30 left.

    9:40 ET - Pass to Nicks on the NE 18-yard-line. Two minute warning! Not quite the same situation as NFC championship, when Giants automatically won on a short field goal. They want to score but not leave Patriots enough time to come back.

    9:46 ET - Something I've never seen in a Super Bowl, not even in an NFL game. Patriots let Giants run through the line, and running back Bradshaw attempted to stop at the goal line but fell through for a touchdown that he didn't want to score! Patriots need to score TD and have a minute to do it.

    9:51 ET - Giants 21, Patriots 17. Brady sacked! 40 seconds left. 4th and 16 for the Patriots. They have no chance!

    9:53 ET- Pass to Branch for the first down! NINE seconds left.

    9:55 ET - One play left. Hail Mary coming.

    9:56 ET - Ball tipped interminably in end zone. Ball on ground! Giants! Guess the Patriots did have a snowball's chance. Whew.

    Adobe Animal Hospital

    It's early morning on Super Bowl Sunday. Customers stream through the double doors at Adobe Animal Hospital . Many of them don't want to be here and howl their objections.

    The emergency room is open 24/7. However, if the customer is not a dog or cat, the staff may not be able to take her immediately; "exotic" specialists aren't always present. Our guinea pig was sick last night, but we couldn't bring her in until today. Turtles, birds, fish and guinea pigs are second-class citizens in a canine- and feline-dominated world.

    Our animal's breathing has improved greatly. The doctor prescribed Baytril prophylactically. We are aware of the dangers of over-administering antibiotics, but guinea pigs are sensitive creatures who can go downhill quickly. At the margin, we'll opt for the medicine.

    We were done after 90 minutes---a minor digression from the day's plans, and an excellent result when one considers everything that could have gone wrong.

    Go Patriots, go Giants Oh, heck, I just hope it's a well-played, competitive game.

    Saturday, February 04, 2012

    If You Won't Do It For Yourself...

    "Senior-move management" and estate liquidation: businesses that have prospered in response to a growing need.
    As older parents approach death, they often leave lengthy to-do lists for their children. The tasks can be both physical and financial. Some children must deal with a tangle of arrangements—everything from heating-oil contracts to trusts—along with jumbled stock certificates, car titles or life-insurance policies for which there may be no backup copies. Others must sift through boxes or rooms full of belongings.
    One of the best gifts that parents can leave their children is an organized life. Harried heirs often must sort through decades of memories and clutter, clueless about items' significance. Of course, it's better to communicate the details of one's estate while one is alive, but that's a difficult conversation that understandably keeps getting postponed.

    It seems that the purpose of life is to accumulate stuff through middle age, then spend the remainder of one's years getting rid of most of it, then organizing what's left.

    Friday, February 03, 2012

    Stand and Palaver

    The latest trend in company meetings---standing:
    The object is to eliminate long-winded confabs where participants pontificate, play Angry Birds on their cellphones or tune out.
    Shorter meetings don't cause the quality of the output to suffer:
    a study back in 1998 that found that standing meetings were about a third shorter than sitting meetings and the quality of decision-making was about the same.
    Not only does productivity rise from spending less time in meetings, but standing up also confers health benefits.

    Just think of the non-business activities that can benefit from the standing principle: 1) church services would be a lot shorter if worshippers had to stand throughout; 2) lines at the DMV, Post Office, and train station would move faster if the clerks were made to stand like the suffering customers; 3) professors will make their points more quickly and students will pay more attention if they had to stand for lectures.

    The mind boggles at the possibilities.
    © 2012 Stephen Yuen

    Thursday, February 02, 2012

    Facebook Palooza

    Facebook's income: 2009 - 2011
    It's Facebook Palooza at the Wall Street Journal, where there are over a dozen articles and blog posts about Facebook's S-3 filing for the IPO.

    There's a lot to mull over, but I've already concluded that I won't be buying the stock when it becomes available. (Here's why you should not listen to me: I could have bought Google on the day after its initial public offering for $100 but didn't get in till GOOG surpassed $400. Still here? Okay, you were warned.)

    There's no question that Facebook's revenues and earnings will rocket upward....for a while. Let's say that FB's 2011 net income of $1 billion rises to $10 billion in 2015 (for example, doubling for three years running, then tapering to "mere" 25% growth in year four). Applying a price-earnings ratio of 20--the same as Google's current trailing twelve-month multiple--results in a 2015 company valuation of $200 billion, a doubling of today's $100 billion IPO value.

    Such price appreciation (19% compounded annual growth rate) would be very good, to be sure, but it also may be achievable without taking the risk of investing in an IPO. Stocks with a much longer track record, such as my January 7, 2012 portfolio, are already up 19% for the year.

    The WSJ compares Facebook with Google:
                              Google          Facebook
    2011 Revenue             $37.9 billion   $3.7 billion
    Growth rate from 2010     29%             88%
    2011 Income              $9.74 billion   $1 billion
    Growth rate from 2010     15%             65%
    Employees                 32,467          3,200

    Google triumphed by defeating competitors like Yahoo. Facebook has a tougher challenge because it has Google in its way. Other risks (slower customer growth, loss of key employees, etc.) listed in the S-3 are those which one might expect.

    [Update: although Mark Zuckerberg owns "only" 28% of Facebook, he controls it through the tiered share structure and agreements with other large shareholders. If you invest in Facebook, you'll be stuck with Mark, for better or worse, in sickness or in health.]

    But let's not get too negative: there's a reasonable chance that I'll have regrets for not investing in Facebook, but it's hoped that the performance of my other investments will ease the pain.

    [Update - 2/4: A WSJ analyst isn't impressed with Facebook's potential upside.
    If Facebook's shares rose from a total initial value of $100 billion to $190 billion 10 years from now, they would deliver a 90% cumulative gain, for an average annual return of 6.8%. Bottom line: "The valuation is so high today that the upside potential is limited," (Finance prof Jay) Ritter says.]

    © 2012 Stephen Yuen

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    Rabbit, Rabbit Reprise

    Only a few word changes are necessary to update the post from one year ago:
    I remembered the only thing that my 11th-grade math teacher taught me and said “Rabbit, Rabbit” when I rolled out of bed this morning.
    a person should say "rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit" or simply "white rabbits" upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the duration of that month.
    The lucky Year of the Rabbit Dragon commences on Thursday d on January 23rd, which should double the good luck. Time to throw caution to the winds and buy some stocks that I’ve been eyeing. Already the market has had its best January in 14 15 years, and I'm thinking (hoping) that it’s got more room to run.

    Well, you know what they say about a fool and his money…..

    January was good last year, but this year it's been outstanding, especially the NASDAQ (in red):

    [Update - 2/2: January's Stock Performance is the Best in 15 Years. ]

    January 1 -31,  2012

    January 1 - 31, 2011