Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween with Jessica and laurel

Grantham on a Lost Opportunity

Jeremy Grantham's 3rd Quarter update to his investors is wonderful. If you're a financial nerd, the whole thing is a great read. If you're an average Joe, than the closing section titled, Lessons Not Learned, is short and to the point. How have we missed this opportunity to restructure the fiancial system?", he asks. I've embedded the whole document below but this is one of my favorite parts.

"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect genuine change given that the general public is disgusted with the financial system and none too pleased with Congress. I have no idea why the current administration, which came in on a promise of change, for heaven’s sake, is so determined to protect the status quo of the financial system at the expense of already weary taxpayers who are promised only somewhat better lifeboats. 

It is obvious to most that there was a more or less complete failure of our private financial system and its public overseers. The regulatory leaders in particular were all far too captured and cozy in their dealings with reckless and greedy financial enterprises. Congress also failed in its role. For example, it did not rise to the occasion to limit the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie. Nor did it encourage the regulation of new financial instruments. Quite the reverse, as exemplified by the sorry tale of CFTC Chairman Brooksley Born’s fight to regulate credit default swaps. 

But, at least now, Congress seems to realize the problem: the current financial system is too large and complicated for the ordinary people attempting to control it. Even Barney Frank, were he on his death bed, might admit this; and most members of Congress know that they hardly understand the financial system at all. Many of the banks individually are both too big and so complicated that none of their own bosses clearly understand their own complexity and risk taking. The recent boom and the ensuing crisis are a wonderfully scientific experiment with definitive results that we are all trying to ignore. And, except for bankers, who have Congress in an iron grip, we all want and need a profound change. We all want smaller, simpler banks that are not too big to fail. And we can and should arrange it!"

Enjoy the rest of the article.

Jeremy Grantham Third Quarter 2009 Letter height="500" width="100%" > value="">            

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jott: Voicemail Transcription

Jott just released a great new customer acquisition tool - a personalized link that let's me invite my friends to the service. Long time readers know I love the Jott Voicemail Transcription service. It's fast, pretty accurate and they send you an email with the transcription in it. It's saved me so much time because I don't have to listen to voicemail anymore and it's improved my workflow because I can just forward transcriptions that are important to co-workers. No awkward voicemail forwarding and big time sink. Jott is a winner. Check it out.

The customized link is a great viral customer acquisition technique. It's so simple, yet I think it's one of the most important acquisition techniques of the last couple of years. It's great cause it's easy, and it rewards both the promoter and the new customer. In Jott's case, each member get's a free month if you click through the specific link.

New Yorker Cover

Loved this New Yorker cover posted by the Himmelsblog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This is Why I Own Google's Stock

The Himmelsblog posted a great picture of TomTom & Garmen's stock prices when Google came out with its Navigator functionality today.

I bought Google's stock last year because 1) They have a monopoly in Search & Search Advertising, and 2) They will dominate Mobile Apps. Seeing #1 wasn't that hard, and frankly, I was late to the party. I should have seen that at the IPO, but better late than never. On #2, I don't think people see this yet, but everytime they announce another app like Navigator, people are going to begin to understand. For me, it hit me when I saw YouTube & Google Maps featured so prominently on the Iphone commercials. Apple wanted to sell phones and they needed Apps to show off. Google's apps were among the best and helped Apple drive adoption. But I don't think Apple is going to spend much time on Apps and Microsoft has proven pretty inept here, so Google is going to own Mobile Apps the way Microsoft owns Desktop Apps someday, with or without Android succeeding.

Building an Apps business like Microsoft requires the ability to invest huge amounts of money in loss leading products like YouTube, Maps & Navigator, because it's not obvious how to monetize them at first. You have to take it in the shorts for a while but as you build critical mass and undercut competitors trying to eek out a living charging for products that you are giving a away at a discount (free), you consolidate the market and then you package it into a suite or bundled service. This is exactly what Microsoft did with Office, with the added advantage that they hooked it into Windows. Google's Search business is so crazy profitable that it can easily subsidize the apps business indefinitely and guess what, Google is launching a mobile OS that they'll be able to use as an anchor for apps someday.

As you can see from my Covestor widget to the right, I've done quite well on Google, but I don't think it's fully valued right now. That doesn't mean I would run out and buy a bunch of stock. I wouldn't. But I would start adding it to my portfolio slowly on weakness. Mobile Apps will be the second leg of Google's growth and I believe it will be very powerful. I don't think the market understands this yet, but someday it will.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fibromyalgia Support: Living With Fibro

Regular readers know of the patient to patient support sites that Ben Munoz and I have been building. Here's a video that tells our story.

We've been hard at work, but this time we've been joined by a couple friends, and together, we've built Living With Fibro, a support site for people who suffer from Fibromyalgia. We started the site because Diana, a member of LivingWithTN, a support site for Trigeminal Neuralgia, asked us if we could start one for Fibromyalgia. We said sure, but only if she and our other friend Eric Kroll would help us. Eric and Diana started immediately and I'm happy to report that in one week, we already have 15+ members, a new record for the support sites. 

Like other rare diseases, folks with Fibromyalgia can find comfort, support and tips for managing the pain by sharing information. That's the goal of Living With Fibro. Check out the site and if you know people who could benefit, please send the site or this post along.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Went to my favorite NYC yoga place today

Online Training with Susan

My friend, Susan Cline, started an online training company called JumpCloud Solutions. Susan does a ton of online tutorials for things as simple as Gmail and as complicated as every Google App under the sun. She had been doing it in a consulting role but decided to take the plunge and start her own company.

Big congrats Susan! Check her out at JumpCloud Solutions.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Chill Music (October 23, 2009)

The Monsters of Folk concert was great this week, so I made a little mix to remind me of the concert. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julie True Massage in San Francisco

I'm one of those people with annoying neck problems. For those of you with back or neck issues, you know how this impedes your life in little ways. I've found a few ways of managing it over the years. A combination of Yoga, regular exercise and stretching at work (I look really weird on the floor of my office) are big for me. Most important though is I mix massages in from the amazing Julie True!

Julie has been giving me massages for the last seven years (excluding my time in Chicago) and she is hands down the best. I go in to her studio a little broken down from the chronic pain and I leave with a smile on my face, both from the massage and from the positive energy she radiates. I can't recommend her enough. If you suffer, go see her.

Splicing Video Into Text Content

There's a terrific article on Mad Men in the Atlantic Monthly. Great writing dissecting what makes Mad Men special. What makes this article special though, is that it splices in Video content into the article. As you scroll down, you see three Mad Men screen deconstructions of specific examples of Mad Men greatness. The editors of the Atlantic Monthly voice over scenes and explain the little things in the Mad Men scenes.

What does this remind you of? DVD Director commentary. The same commentary (and deleted scenes) that lead you to pay $19.99 for a DVD, or $9.99 per month on Netflix, when you could download the movie for free on Bit Torrent.

Integrating the video editorial of the scenes is a differentiator. It's almost impossible for a curious reader to not click on the videos as they scroll through the article. Where else could you get this? Could a blogger do this? Maybe, but it would be tough. This is a classic case of differentiated packaging, the kind of packaging that let's you charge more for a product. This is where newspapers and magazines must go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sarah Silverman

I'm a huge fan of hers. Her movie is unbelievably funny and also very everyone.

this is via Chris Lin.

David Einhorn on Gold

David Einhorn, an excellent investor, the author of Fooling Some of the People All of the Time, and an investing hero to me and others who read this blog had some great quotes on economic policy recently. Here is one of my favorites (although I'm very long gold). The whole article is worth reading.

On his gold thesis:
I have seen many people debate whether gold is a bet on inflation or deflation. As I see it, it is neither. Gold does well when monetary and fiscal policies are poor and does poorly when they appear sensible. Gold did very well during the Great Depression when FDR debased the currency. It did well again in the money printing 1970s, but collapsed in response to Paul Volcker’s austerity. It ultimately made a bottom around 2001 when the excitement about our future budget surpluses peaked….
….When I watch Chairman Bernanke, Secretary Geithner and Mr. Summers on TV, read speeches written by the Fed Governors, observe the “stimulus” black hole, and think about our short-termism and lack of fiscal discipline and political will, my instinct is to want to short the dollar. But then I look at the other major currencies. The Euro, the Yen, and the British Pound might be worse. So, I conclude that picking one these currencies is like choosing my favorite dental procedure. And I decide holding gold is better than holding cash, especially now, where both earn no yield.

Monday, October 19, 2009


The Monsters of Folk show at the Fox Theater was awesome Saturday night. I went with a lot of friends and we had a blast. 33 Forever, aka John Hamilton, blogged a couple songs from performers. Here's one.

Golden by Jim James and the rest of the guys...

Here's there music video they released with album:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Now that is a wedding desert bar!

He Has a Great Point

Fake Steve Jobs on the new Motorola - Android phone being marketed by Verizon.

"I've said it before, when Sprint and Palm did this with the Pre -- if the only way you can market your product is to compare it to some other product, you've already lost. Well, thanks for the free publicity, bitches." 
- Fake Steve Jobs

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stevie Nicks

via the Sports Guy while discussing how hot Stevie Nicks used to be.

Friday Chill Music (Oct 16, 2009)

The weather is turning to Fall in the Bay Area and it feels pretty damn good to stay in on a Sunday night, crank up the heater and listen to Bon Iver live. Here's a set from a German festival this August from Captain's Dead. You can even download the songs in Mp3, which is nice for continuous play.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creative Hospital Gowns

My friend Shalon on the AVM Survivor's patient network is amazing. She's a force of nature with her personality and side projects. Shalon's one of the reasons the network passed 1,000 members recently.

When I met her in person she told me about her side project of designing hospital gowns. She has to go in for AVM treatments regularly and got tired of wearing those drab hospital gowns so she did something about it and starting designing hospital "Glamour Gowns" herself (see link for sample designs). It's a pet project that is morphing into a real business.

Here is Jaclyn modeling a sheek red/pink one. Notice the embroidery, "AVM Chicks Rock" with the logo and everything.

If you're interested in buying a Glamour Gown, log into the network and contact Shalon here, or send me an email and I'll connect you to her.

Congrats Shalon! You're amazing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why Don't Startups Work Together More

Great example from Hollrr & Waze that working together is productive. I use and love Hollrr. I had never heard of Waze until Hollrr told me about it. Now I'm a user. More startups should do this.

Don't Let This Be You

My friend Trey Reasonover posted a great article on Facebook from TechDirt about an editorial in the NY Times from the CEO of Cook's Illustrated blaming the Internet for the demise of Gourmet.

First, it's worth noting that Trey and I became friends via Jesse Brandl. Jesse sent me a really funny blog post from Trey and I always read his stuff with interest because he loves tech and always has a bunch of great ideas. So Trey and I are friends because of the Internet and I benefit from his posts and friendships greatly. We didn't find each other through a magazine subscription or some other old world structured mechanism that charges a toll for me to find people like Trey. This is important because paper magazines are basically toll booths for content. They used to be really profitable because effective toll booths print money. Some toll booths are fleating (like paper delivery) while others the Bay Bridge Toll Booth can't be circumvented.

I understand why the Editor of Cook's Illustrated is bummed out. He doesn't understand how to make money and support his editorial infrastructure without that paper toll charge. He probably looks around and sees that iTunes & Amazon have set up toll booths via the iPhone & Kindle, but he would have to pay a toll (revenue share) himself to take advantage of those. So he resists. Here are some of his comments:

The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.

To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google "broccoli casserole" and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise -- the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.

Toll Booths are hard to erect and must be earned. The world doesn't need, "fewer opinions," it needs more, but they must be organized. Cook's Illustrated & Gourmet, used to organize those opinions but it was easier because they only had to look to a few experts. Those who organize the opinions of the masses and tease out the most valuable will earn themselves a toll in the future. They may have to partner with Amazon, Apple, Netflix, etc and share the bounty, but it will be there for them. Resisting the change and doing nothing won't cut it. The school of "hard knocks" that he is so affectionate about is pounding at the door of these paper magazines. Ignoring the noise will only give people like Trey the time to develop the next great cooking information delivery mechanism and another wonderful franchise/brand, Gourmet or Cook's Illustrated, will be wasted.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finger of Instability

Epic article on the financial world by John Mauldin called Another Finer of Instability. It starts a little slow but it's really great. Give it a real chance. He compares the financial world to grains of sand, and their inherent instability.

"Can we avoid this calamity? Yes, we can wrestle the US budget deficit back under some kind of control, close to nominal GDP or on a clear trajectory to get there within a reasonable time (say, a few years). As noted above, we can run deficits close to nominal GDP almost forever. But there is no political willpower to do that now. And so, the market will at some point force the hand of the political class. That investor in St. Louis, or China or (????) will decide not to buy government debt at such low rates. The avalanche will start. And everyone will be surprised at the ferocity of the crisis. Except you, gentle reader. You have been warned."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gilt's Iphone App, the best place to find high end fashion for less, has come to the iPhone. I shop at Gilt all the time. It's an amazing service that is invitation only, but well worth it. If you need an invite, click through this invite link.

Monster Mash

JibJab is back with another great eCard. It's the Monster Mash in time for Halloween. I think my two nieces are going to love this one. :)

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vista Bridge

Sometimes I find that in the day to day of life, I lose focus on what is really important. There are ups and downs in all of our lives and when it get's stressful, it's good to take a step back and remember the important things.

I was in one of those stressful times when I saw Sarah's post on LivingWithTN, a patient to patient support network for Trigeminal Neualgia that I help run. The post was titled "Vista Bridge Revisited." It's a beautiful post of reflection by Sarah. A year ago she was struggling with a recurrence of TN, and briefly contemplated taking her own life via the Vista Bridge in Portland. I remember when Sarah wrote the first post and I thought it was an incredibly brave thing to do, because she was admitting she was having a tough time, and it was a way for her to reach out. At the time, LivingWithTN only had about 30 members (we have 300 now!!!), but I think most of them reached out to Sarah and comforted her the best we could. I like to think that this group of people made a difference for Sarah in her time of need.

I know that Sarah has returned the favor many times over to other members and it makes me very thankful to be a part of the LivingWithTN group. We all have friends, family and in the case of LivingWithTN, special friends, that we can reach out to. I view reaching out as a sign of strength and it's important to remember that.
Sarah is doing great now. This quote sums it all up.

"Today when I see the bridge, I do not see it as a place of despair, but a place of victory."
-- Sarah

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cracks in the Future

Matt Belloni forwarded me this terrific editorial about the impact budget cuts are having on public schools. The subject is Berkeley, my alma mater, but it easily could have been about Michigan, Virginia, Wisconson or the other large public universities.

"More of Berkeley’s undergraduates go on to get Ph.D.’s than those at any other university in the country. The school is among the nation’s leaders in producing winners of the Nobel Prize. An extraordinary amount of cutting-edge research in a wide variety of critically important fields, including energy and the biological sciences, is taking place here."

Berkeley is caught in a full-blown budget crisis with nothing much in the way of upside in sight. The school is trying to cope with what the chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, described as a “severe and rapid loss in funding” from the state, which has shortchanged Berkeley’s budget nearly $150 million this year, and cut more than $800 million from the higher education system as a whole.
This is like waving goodbye to the futures of untold numbers of students. Chancellor Birgeneau denounced the state’s action as “a completely irresponsible disinvestment in the future of its public universities.”

We should all care about this because Berkeley is an enormous and enormously unique national asset. As a public university it offers large numbers of outstanding students from economically difficult backgrounds the same exceptionally high-quality education that is available at the finest private universities.

Something wonderful is going on when a school that is ranked among those at the very top in the nation and the world is also a school in which more than a third of the 25,000 undergraduates qualify for federal Pell grants, which means their family incomes are less than $45,000 a year. More than 4,000 students at Berkeley are from families where the annual income is $20,000 or less.

More than a third are the first in their families to attend a four-year college."

I've excerpted some of his comments but the entire article deserves a read. I am one of those middle class kids who would have been squeezed in this economic environment and I'm also the first in my family to attend a four-year college. I couldn't agree more that Berkeley and the public education system is one of the greatest assets our country and it pains me to see it wasted.

My question is: How do we fix this? I'm all ears.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Texas Arson

Scotty Fausel sent in this article from the New Yorker on a man who was executed for arson in 2004. The catch is the guy was probably innocent. It's a fantastic article. My dad was an arson investigator late in his career and he said it's extremely tough to prove someone committed arson.

This article ran on September 7, 2009, and look how the Texas Governors office is responding...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Being a Cal Fan

If you want your kids to learn humility, send them to CAL. This WSJ article does a good job detailing our sports failures over the years. It's one of those things you learn to embrace as a CAL fan.

Today we play USC. Please, please root for us. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009