May 25, 2008

QUICK NEWS AND INTERESTS 05/24/08

Latest China quake statistics
60,000 dead with over 70,000 buildings damaged in the Sichuan region as per the latest CNN review. A friend of mine and fellow Filipino runs the CNN bureau in China, he has been on the ground doing his best to report on the impact of this earthquake. He does not downplay the magnitude of the devastation or dead, but adds that the government and social organizations have been working overtime to save and assist as many people as possible (and effectively). Trying times for China.

747 splits in half
This is the first time I have ever seen something of this sort. Not the sort of publicity that Boeing needs at the moment. Mental note, do not ride jump seat on Kalitta Air.

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/05/25/belgium.aircrash.ap/index.html

The viper recoils
"I owe that to the Filipino people, to the Filipino nation, to shed light on what I know."-De Venecia (Quoted from Inquirer.net) Seems like the dethroned and wounded man is about to bite back. You can always tell when a Filipino politician does this because they whip up rhetoric fitting of Rousseau himself,albeit with a matching look of contrition (bleh). While this statement was made in regard to the NBN-ZTE scandal, one can only guess at what secrets this old timer has harbored. Its going to be an interesting 2nd half of the year for Filipino politics.

Indiana Jones and Mountain of Lost Money
I sneered in disgust as I watched my moderately diminished hero try to deliver a reasonable explanation for the crystal skeletons that filled the magical knowledge chamber, which in fact, was a dimensional portal. Notwithstanding the weak attempt at a rekindled romance, a swashbuckling hero/grandfather, been there done that action sequences, some Russian accent that I doubt any Russian would understand and 2 hours of my life-- the last 15 minutes of Indiana Jones and The Cristal skull nailed this coffin shut. The coupe de grace.

I am filing this movie with godfather 3. A must- NOT-see. This is no jest, for all Indiana Jones fans, it is better to remember the trilogy for what it was, brilliance in casting, effects and “could have been” scenarios. It was an adventure from start to finish and brought out the explorers in all of us. This Cristal Skull mishap fits better with the Tomb Raider franchise--at least the public expects it to suck! For all those involved, specifically George Lucas, I am sorry you are going to lose so much money.

May 20, 2008

ITS BEEN A LONG WEEK

Nearly 40,000 dead in the Sichuan region of China and another 22,000 in Myanmar as per the latest news today, I would say it has been a pretty depressing week.

Survivors are few and far between and the tally on missing persons is easily in the tens of thousands. Rescue efforts have been further hampered by the damage inflicted on local infrastructure, although the Chinese army has been brilliantly resilient and effective, as they have proven time and time again. You have to give this government credit, when they put their mind to something they plow forward with dogged determination!

The death toll is unfortunate but right now the world needs to focus on how these governments handle the refugee camps that are popping up. China has more than 5 million people that have been left homeless, a good portion of which is living in sub standard conditions (hygienically). Spring rains have not made it any easier. Since food and shelter distribution has proven effective, how the Chinese Government will relocate and reestablish the lives of these survivors will be one for the books. The numbers we are talking about are easily equivalent to the population of many countries.

In an unfortunate events comparison, I would say that the displaced population that the Chinese have to worry about weighs equally with the inward and nonsupporting ruling junta of Myanmar. Here you have the case of a country that does not have the support network or infrastructure to distribute aid, with a Junta continually (tough significantly better) impeding efforts made by outside parties. In this I find the greater catastrophe. Myanmar could learn a thing or two from the Chinese.

It is during times like this that one really gets a chance to pause and reflect about the situation of the world in general. Have we become so petty and self absorbed that we are unable to focus on what is more important, our responsibility as human beings to one another? Perhaps as the past has shown, there will be some good that stems from this Myanmar situation—an excuse for social change. Myanmar has been treading quite poorly on the world stage these last few years and its people are getting tired of this ruling junta. It will not be too long now.

For all my disagreements with the Chinese and their actions, I have been awed and house a sense of real pride (for my adopted home) in the way that they have handled the fallout from the earthquake. Amidst brewing trouble with Tibet, the approaching Olympics, Taiwan, INFLATION, they have orchestrated their relief efforts with a fervor and commitment greater than I have seen in many years. Truly something the Chinese people can be proud of.

Side note
It seems that in all of the different buildings that collapsed in the Sichuan region, school buildings seemed to be one of the larger percentages, 6900 of them to be a little more precise. It’s a good think little kids can run faster than adults, it seems that during earthquakes this may prove to be a crucial self-preservation tool.

And two pandas are still missing.

May 10, 2008

KOWALSKI'S CHALLENGER



Great article on Kowalski's Challenger, at times a bit hammy, but it rekindles the raw, manly emotion that we all felt when we watched Vanishing Point. Its just one of those guy movies that make us cry...

http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Features/articleId=126092?tid=edmunds.il.home.photopanel..3.*

THE THIRD SCREEN



A mobile version of the Internet is a topic that has been popping up in casual discussions and some of the sites I have been reading. This is not the same as you squinting at your mobile phone, trying to browse ESPN.com, this is a whole new internet for the mobile device and it carries the moniker: “Third Screen.” Let us put aside the depressing WAP of the 90’s. This is an experience that will be powered by content, applications and information, accessible through your smart phones. My present knowledge on this subject is spotty at best, but let us chew on the idea a bit:

The Internet is marvelous. I do not need to expound further. Yet how many of us actually browse the Internet on our mobile devices with ease? Statistics say that 10% of all mobile phones are smart phones—but who are we fooling, probably 8% of these smart phones have speeds of access match the Cebu Pacific refund hotline. When you partner this “siesta” velocity to the tiny screens most smart phones sport (I Phone and E90 aside), mobile surfing is really more of a way to look busy when you are not or at best, kill time between meetings.

The Internet of the 21st century is a far cry from what we had back in the 90’s. Today we are bombarded by a rich experience of data, photos, information, music, and advertisements. The whole system is calibrated for home/work PCs and will continue to expand and improve through technology. It also helps that the world is allowing more and more of this Internet to enter our daily lives, some of the content I see out there is just embarrassing (but we all enjoy clicking on it anyway!).

I feel that mobile technology will always be a step behind, primarily because the development of our mobile phones are hampered by industry ceiling set for size and selling price. If for the foreseeable near future the mobile Internet as a subset of the much larger PC Internet will be noticeably inferior—why not approach from another angle?

I will assert that for most professionals, we would rather move around our tight schedules for a little, uninterrupted web time on a computer, then attempt to browse on the go. There is just more that you can accomplish in an hour of Internet time behind a powerful computer, than you can in 3 hours on a phone. Already I find my poor eyes benefiting from the larger and brighter screens on new computers.

This “Third Screen” as an article I read on Adage mentioned, will develop a new Internet rather than a subset of our existing one. New brands not just an extension of old brands. A world where barcode scanners like the one on my Nokia can be used to scan products and access information through the web direct to our phones. Perhaps social networking sites will be seamlessly integrated, where we might correspond with our network by scrolling down our contacts list and clicking on a name. Like for many things in life, software adoption depends on ease of use and presentation, not just by merely existing.

Of course, these are just conjectures. Most companies have not even made a full shift to the Internet, what more a Mobile net. I cringe when I think of all the expensive programs that are currently shuffling old media to new media (think of WSJ and WSJ.com). However, it is an interesting step towards the future and one that is not as far fetched as you might think.

May 05, 2008

SHORT EGYPTIAN BREAK

I do not usually write about travels, but my recent trip to Egypt really blew my mind. In between what has been an incredibly busy month, I went on a 6-day trip through Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and the Nile both to explore the local economy (did not do much of that…) as well as visit a civilization that I have long studied. Astounding. I have never been to a country with such palpable history—everywhere. Since this is not a travel blog, I will keep my recommendation short: I have trekked, baked, hacked, and lounged my way through a great majority of the remains of civilizations past—Egypt just blows them all away.

There are ruins everywhere of everything and the government has only uncovered a small portion of what lies under the sands. Sadly, the fact that there is so much has also made Egypt one of the most stolen from civilizations. Whether stolen and melted in the years preceding the 1800’s bartered for nothing to art connoisseurs in the 19th and 20th centuries, or traded by Egyptian kings for broken French clocks (you can still find the obelisk in Paris), it is truly a pity.

I thought I would leave a photo of 200-year-old graffiti. It is both amusing and irritating to see the monuments defaced with centuries old scribble. If I had a better grasp of ancient Greek or Latin, I might have been able to translate the 1000-year-old graffiti that I saw.

Of course I could not resist spending an hour or two scouting for old cars to buy. In a land that has embraced Fiat’s, Renaults, and Lada’s, I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of old Combi’s, 1940’s Benzes and Muscle cars, rotting. Apparently small, tinny, and square is in, who would have thought. Now the trick is for me to develop a business that will justify shipping containers to The Philippines or China…




May 04, 2008

ABELOUR WITH ROMEO AND JULIETA'S

After a good happy hour set of steak burgers and Ketel One martini’s at Mortons Steakhouse—arguably the best burgers and martini’s in Singapore, I proceeded to continue in my gluttony by charging a fine set of Romeo and Julieta No. 3's and bottle of Abelour 10 years to my expense account! In my frequent travels, there is nothing quite like enjoying a manly evening of steaks, cigars, malt and beautiful people, while chatting with friends about business! It has all the right elements: Something bad for your heart, liver and mouth, while exercising your mind AND eyes. Perfect.

Abelour 10 Years: A spicy and salty Speyside (the bar listed it as an Islay) Malt, not the top of the Abelour range, but for the price a relative bargain. It warms you up quick, leaving a sweet aftertaste. Does not carry the salty Speyside hit that a lot of the Malts from this region carry.

Romeo and Julieta No. 03: Hits with a nice vanilla aftertaste, which grows more poignant as the cigar burns mid-way (must be the heat). I find it a bit harsh for my taste, preferring a nice Cohiba or Davidoff of equivalent size—though many will argue. It has a light draw…ugh.

QUICK NEWS AND INTERESTS 05/05/08


Wrigley’s and Mars dance
Mars and The Oracle from Omaha are tuning a Wrigley’s buyout. I was quite impressed with the company operations when I visited the corporate headquarters in 2006. A staple in Chicago (Wrigley’s), this move will make Mars significantly more competitive on the global perspective (they are no. 1), while providing the Wrigley’s company with a suitable parent company for long term growth. It’s a great deal for Wrigley executives and shareholders who will be paid almost 4 times more than its 5.4 billion in sales. Of course, just about anything that Warren Buffet touches turns to gold, so I have high hopes for the future of both these companies. The blog I read of Bob Reed also reminded me of the deal between P and G and Gillette a few years back (I was based in Boston during this period), which has many similar traits. The long and the sort of it: Berkshire Hathaway is going to make out like a bandit in the Short and Long Run. Surprised?

Just a side note: Impeccably dressed, Bill Jr. commands his company from within a gorgeous neoclassical building that bears his name. Flanked on both sides by gorgeous model-esque assistants, he has the profile and panache, rare in a world of cookie cutter executives. I wish him the best as he moves towards a new direction for his company—it certainly looks like the right move for Wrigley’s. Let us see how the shareholders vote.

Korean firms do not bribe…
Perhaps Filipino’s are starting to wizen up to the structurally ineffective system of bribery before action. Paulino Emano has made quite a stink of this 400 million contract to supply materials. Hanjin has been heavily investing in the Philippines and it would be na├»ve to think that the latest of several “Filipino Glitches” will not make them think twice in investing in our country. Idealistic—perhaps, but it is certainly not economically advisable. Let us see how this plays out in the coming weeks.

QUICK MOBILITY AND THE INDUSTRY NEWS 05/05/08

Goodbye Microsoft
High fives went all around as the elated Yahoo board celebrated Microsoft’s withdrawal of its bid. I suppose this was expected as Yahoo was dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiating table, by the much larger and strategically logical Microsoft—I do not think they even got to the dirty details of the merger! It was always on a more superficial level.

Steve Ballmer released a letter to Yahoo which outlines the coming difficulties for this Web 1.0 staple: ““This would effectively enable Google to set the prices for key search terms on both their and your search platforms and, in the process, raise prices charged to advertisers on yahoo.

Coupled with the loss of good personnel and the inherently weak position of Yahoo in the market, I hope Jerry Yang’s protective nature over the company he started, includes a brilliant strategic plan for the next 2 years (Aren’t emotions supposed to be kept out of business?). Otherwise, we will probably see the return of Microsoft. Well, one can always hope.

Mindshare Event
Good, it’s about time that the RP starts looking in this direction more actively: (http://www.inquirer.net/vdo/player.php?vid=710)

Social Networking Sites For Business

Rapleaf a social web search company has a study that shows that men are more likely to use social networking sites for business—and not to a small degree. This includes sites like Friendster, Facebook, Myspace, Belbo, Etc. I am still trying to get a copy of this study. I need to get on the ball with this—I hardly use my Facebook, what more network for business on it.