Thursday, December 28, 2006

Faked Kidnapping

Lady in German faked her own kidnapping, just to avoid going to work. She messaged her parents that she was kidnapped, Police launched massive search to find her. She turned herself next day (Dec 24th) saying that kidnapper set her free.

Subsequent police investigation found that she lied.

She faked the kidnapping, OK, for what? Just to avoid going to work?! I would recommend that she watch lot of tamil movies to master this faking technique. Next time, she should fake the kidnap and get the ransom from her parents, that would give some money instead of just the day off.

Only problem is that even if she is really kidnapped in future, no one is going to believe her ;-)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Another Competitor to Google

I wrote about Powerset few weeks ago. Timesonline reports that Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and Amazon plans to launch a search engine early next year.

Amazon didn't do well with its A9. It's pouring money into this new venture to beat Google in search game. "Social Search" is going to be hot, everyone thinks so. Jimmy Wales plans to use army of Wikipedia volunteers to make the search results more relevant to search terms. It will be very interesting to see how this is played out.

Happy Holidays!

Guys in Meetro, social messaging company, created this holiday card. It’s the spoof of famous 1978 Micorsoft photo.

If you feel little naughty, check out this video!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

BusinessWeek Article on U.S. Real Estate

Current issue of Business Week has a very good article on Real Estate in U.S. Click the following link to read more.

This article is open to everyone, not only for subscribers.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Attention: Real Estate Speculators in India

Here's a Lesson from Hong Kong's Housing Bubble. This article was written by Grace Wong, Professor of real estate in Wharton University. It was originally published on May 18, 2005. It is more relevant to current market conditions in Indian Real Estate.

Whenever housing prices soar -- in Shanghai, San Francisco or Santiago -- experts wonder whether the cause is a speculative bubble that could eventually burst, causing widespread distress. Such frenzied swings are not confined to real estate alone, of course, as any investor who lost his shirt during the dot-com mania of the 1990s knows. What causes such bubbles? Is there a way of spotting them while the bubble is actually being formed -- rather than after the fact? A new research paper that examines volatility in Hong Kong's residential market between 1992 and 1997 offers interesting insights into these questions.

In "The Anatomy of a Housing Bubble" Grace Wong offers ways to spot future real estate bubbles in time to introduce corrective measures before the damage takes its toll. Wong's research explores the Hong Kong housing market, which saw a "real increase" in prices of 50% from 1995 to 1997, followed by a "real decrease" of 57% from 1997 to 2002. (Real increases and decreases refer to changes adjusted for inflation.) Transaction volumes, too, rose dramatically from 68,000 in 1995 to more than 172,000 in 1997, but fell to 85,000 the following year.

Wong says the movements in the underlying market and macro-economic fundamentals in Hong Kong during the period studied do not fully justify the dramatic price upswing or the changes in the volume of trading in homes. She says her study offers "a potentially powerful tool" to define, track and look for evidence of speculative activity in the housing markets. "My paper can be used as a diagnostic tool and not after the fact. We can track these movements when a price upswing is actually happening." That ability, she says, will arm policy makers, developers and others in the housing market to reassess their plans much before a bubble bursts. Central banks also could use such real-time market analysis to check for any wanton speculation in the housing market, and intervene with monetary policies like interest rate changes.

So how exactly does the diagnostic tool work? "When there are speculative activities in the asset market, we should see an increase in transaction volume as well," explains Wong. "This positive relationship between turnover and price should be on the top of any positive relationship implied by other theories such as liquidity premium (which states that as assets are traded more liquidly, prices go up.) What I did was make use of a unique data structure that allowed me to separate these stories apart and provide evidence on whether there is speculation." Wong cautions, though, that like other diagnostic tools, this one is probably not perfect.

"The interesting thing is, the bubble grows as speculative activities build up," Wong notes. "There is likely to be some speculative demand in the market at all times, but bubbles form only when there is substantial speculation. What we can do is to keep track of changes in turnover volume, separate increases in turnover due to speculation and those due to other factors, and therefore get a sense of how much speculation there is. When there is a frenzy of trading, a red flag should be raised and we should take a careful look at the fundamentals (which are difficult to measure) and housing prices."

Hong Kong is a suitable setting to draw lessons for markets elsewhere in the world, Wong says, for several reasons. It is a metropolitan city much like other major world cities, and its 1,102 square kilometers is about six times the size of Washington, D.C. It has home ownership rates of about 50% and well developed capital markets. The city's large-scale housing complexes allow researchers to work with an empirical framework; that would be more difficult in other situations with low transaction volumes and housing units that are not comparable.

For all the different components of her study, Wong uses a sample size of at least 200 large-scale housing complexes, called estates in Hong Kong. That sample increases to cover data representing up to 320 complexes in select cases. About half the roughly 2.3 million housing units in Hong Kong are provided by the public sector, and most are rental units. Wong's focus is primarily on the other half that are privately owned. The average Hong Kong estate has these characteristics: It is 18 years old and has 291 apartment sizes averaging 590 sq. ft. each. Wong's study reveals that average home prices rose from U.S. $767 a sq. ft., adjusted for inflation, in the pre-upswing period (July 1993-June 1995) to $992 in the post-upswing period (October 1995 October to September 1997).

Wong's choice of the data sample and methodology helped her overcome some challenges that have typically dogged similar studies. She notes that from the Tulip Craze in the Netherlands in the 17th century to the technology stock bubble of the late 1990s, asset pricing models have been questioned. Also, there has been limited literature on speculation in markets because of the difficulties in measuring the fundamental value of assets. Wong was also confronted with the peculiarities of her target markets: housing stock is heterogeneous; transaction frequency is typically low; and location and local institutions play a significant role -- such as in specifying zoning laws -- in determining values.

Wong was able to overcome those obstacles by conducting a "within-city" analysis, using data sets covering 200-plus Hong Kong estates. But before arriving at that sample, Wong started out with raw transaction data for all real estate transactions in Hong Kong between 1994 and 1998. She excluded transactions involving non-residential sectors and non-livable space such as car parks to get to her next research stage. That meant going over nearly 350,000 property-level observations such as the settlement prices, gross square footage, building names and street addresses.

Wong provides evidence to underscore her theory of "overconfidence-generated speculation" in Hong Kong, supported by a model used in a February 2003 study by Jose Scheinkman and Wei Xiong of Princeton University in their paper, "Overconfidence and Speculative Bubbles." To test alternative theories on the relationship between speculation and turnover, she uses a model put out by Jainping Mei of the Stern School of Business at New York University, and Princeton University's Scheinkman and Xiong in their February 2004 paper, "Speculative Trading and Stock Prices: An Analysis of China's A-B Share Premia."

With that armory of data and methodology, Wong was able to establish that the price increases in Hong Kong were not caused by "a simple supply-side story, in which a sudden decrease in housing supply or rational expectations of future supply decreases" were the main culprits. Wong also discovered that so-called fundamental factors -- such as population growth and migration, wage trends, real interest rates and tax structures - did not spark the demand frenzy.

Wong also discounted the possible explanation of a "flight to quality" by investors after studying returns on equity stocks, bonds and foreign exchange. Here, Wong looked at Hong Kong's Hang Seng stock index, where she found the returns to the non-real estate components were at least as high as that to holding residential housing stock. She extended this part of the investigation to track Hong Kong housing prices alongside indices in stock markets in Singapore and Japan. Her finding: While all three experienced a downturn between 1996 and 1998, the "foreign stock market indices (Singapore and Japan) fell much earlier than Hong Kong housing prices, and they did not show the sharp upward movement before the fall." What this told her was that while the housing market crash may have been caused or aggravated by the regional economic downturn, the upswing before 1997 was rooted in factors specific to Hong Kong.

Wong also explored interest rate movements as a possible explanation to rising home prices. Here, she found little evidence to support an argument that cheaper finance may have fueled the boom. The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar, and so the prime rate is often a reflection of the economic conditions in the U.S. rather than in Hong Kong.

The report is a "work-in-progress," says Wong, who wants to continue with her research and refine her findings. "I want to dig deeper into this story," she notes. Without the benefit of adequate data and analysis, Wong won't allow herself to be drawn into speculation on where the next bubble might be, although she does see some evidence in U.S. coastal city markets including San Francisco and Boston that warrant "suspicion." She adds, however, that she cannot say "whether it is time to be alarmed, because I haven't studied the data."

(One year after her study, it’s evident that it was time to get alarmed. Prices in Bay area and Boston came down, it’s still going down. Economists expect the price decline will continue into 2007)

Wong, who has and will continue to present her findings at conferences in Asia and the U.S., hasn't yet sent her work to government policy makers and regulators in Hong Kong, but she plans to distribute copies among peers and other academicians. Her next research project aims at exploring "the linkage between the extent of speculation in different parts of Hong Kong and land supply". Wong also plans to study the evolution of land use restriction variation across time and space in Hong Kong. "This is a very complex subject and it helps to have more minds focus on it," she says.

Indian real estate speculators need to learn the lesson from this article. Many parts of the world including India, South Korea and China are experiencing real estate boom fueled by speculation and flipping. History shows how this would end.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Adsense Millionaires

Some of my friends ask me how much I make from Adsense ads in this blog. Not much. Very few people click on those ads. I know that lot of people make money using the articles I write. But, they don’t bother to click on these ads.

However, there are some guys who make hundreds of thousands of dollars using Adsense. John Chow dot Com wrote about that. Here is the article link:

I heard about plentyoffish website. This is like another craigslist, but just the personals section. Nothing specific to casual encounters though! I guess fish is the first mover in Canada in the personals category.

I came to know about John Chow’s blog from a friend. This blog has the sub-heading “Miscellaneous Ramblings of Dot-com Mogul”. I tried to find out which dot-com had him as Mogul, couldn’t find it. His blog has really good traffic (around 200k visits per month) and Alexa ranking of 3,380.

John Chow writes on variety of topics. His blog covers Investing, Technology, Internet, etc., I expected lot more business ideas and commentaries from John because of his prior experiences as “Dot-com Mogul”.

Another interesting post I found in John’s blog is about high-tech urinal. When I see people pee in the streets it’s so disgusting. I think all cities should install this. BTW, if you think only Indians do this in the streets, it’s comforting to know that even Westerners do this.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Real Estate Funds

When you hear about Real Estate bubble discussion in all media, you would naturally think it’s wise to stay away from anything related to Real Estate. In fact, it is wise to stay away from purchasing your new home for another 6 months, at least.

However, REITs are doing just fine. Some of the real estate mutual funds scored 50%+ return so far this year! All these funds didn’t invest in home builder stocks, instead they invested in REITs.

Following funds returned more than 41% year to date!

ProFunds Real Estate UltraSector Inv (REPIX)
E.I.I. International Property Instl (EIIPX)
Morgan Stanley Inst Intl Real Estate A (MSUAX)
First American Real Estate Secs Y (FARCX)

Some of these funds have min investment of $15,000, some have min of $1 million!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reality Shows

Do you watch reality shows? I used to watch Bachelor when it first came out, may be four years ago. It was kind of weird, so I watched to see what that was about. After few episodes, I gave up on that show. Later, Fear Factor and Survivor glued me to the TV.

I am a big fan of "24" show on Fox. Although "24" is a TV show, I can put that in reality show category also, because that show was almost real.

Recently I came across the website This has episodes of Reality TV. These episodes are created by their own team. Checkout the site, there is a funny episode about Vegas. This site also has Holiday special video. When they build the company they want to show you behind the scenes glance of the company and its people.

Reality shows can only go to some extent, if these shows cross the limit, there is no point in watching these shows. Current craze is to watch reality shows whether it’s Survivor or Fear Factor. I feel this thing would fade in the future and something else will be hyped up.

Try to take some videos of yourself celebrating New Year and post it in Youtube. You never know, that may even catapult you into a celebrity!

Update: Fox released Happy Holidays Video with "24" theme on it. I love it! Checkout the video at

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

XBox 360 Marketing Video

Microsoft created a brilliant video to market Xbox. You can see that in

You need msn/hotmail account to view the video.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Consequences of Amaranth Failure

If you work for some company and if you screw up billions of dollars, you may not find another job for the rest of your career. True or False?

In Wall street, it's false. You can screw up billions of dollars, but still you can get away with it.

Brian Hunter, the natural-gas trader behind massive losses at hedge fund Amaranth Advisors, is exploring whether to get back in the game, people familiar with his plans say.

He approached Wall Street contacts to gauge investor interest in backing him, these people say, and may decide whether to resume energy trading in a few months. His decision on whether to start a new energy fund could depend on the outcome of regulatory inquiries and litigation over Amaranth's collapse.

Amaranth, based in Greenwich, Conn., is liquidating, after Mr. Hunter's bad bets triggered roughly $6.4 billion in losses, or 70% of its assets.

An executive recruiter in contact with Brian Hunter says he has offered to help introduce the once-highflying trader to investors. The recruiter sees opportunities for Hunter to make a fresh start with high-net-worth investors, possibly in Russia and the Middle East.

Hunter was estimated to have made at least $75 million in 2005. He has kept a low profile since the blowup, while moving to a new house in a wooded area near his native Calgary, Alberta. A friend says he plans to take an island vacation soon and isn't rushing to make a move.

Betting on fallen hedge-fund stars isn't all that uncommon. John Meriwether, who led Long-Term Capital Management until its 1998 implosion, now runs another hedge fund.

Meanwhile, the fools that lost money in these hedge funds, live in Mental asylum.

How the World Shaves Years Off Your Life

This article was written by Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. & Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and was published in Here is the summary of that article.

Following are the five environmental health factors that can affect both the length and quality of your life-and what you can do to counteract them.

1. You need to start thinking about your lunch hour in a whole new way. Basically, going to a restaurant and spending an hour sitting there and then waddling back to the office is a mistake. Sounds crazy, but it's true. Instead, take a walk after lunch – Every day.

2. The air we breathe has never been more harmful. And we're not just talking gas fumes or exhaust or secondhand smoke. There's a kind of modern pollution that's everywhere: PM-10. You can't see it, smell it, or feel it. It's particulate matter less than ten microns in diameter -- just a few ten thousandths of an inch -- and what makes it bad is that your body can't filter it out before it gets deep into your lungs.

When it gets in, it can lodge there and induce an immune response similar to the one you get if you inhale asbestos. The body tries to kill it as though it were bacteria, but of course you can't kill dust, so the body keeps on attacking it for years. Over time, the lining of your lungs builds up scar tissue and can eventually induce nearby lung cells to become cancerous. There's PM-10 in every breath you take, but it concentrates in certain environments: in homes, especially in winter when the windows are closed; in the workplace, where it's often impossible to open the windows at all; and in cars, taxis, and buses, which don't have particularly good filters in their ventilation systems.

So what can you do? Whenever possible, give your home a good airing out. Do the same with your car -- and always open the windows for a few minutes if the car has been sitting in the sun for a while. The heat causes the plastics inside to release chemicals into the air, and they'll stay there until you ventilate the vehicle. You may also want to invest in a certified HEPA air filter for your home. They start at about $200 and remove as much as 85 percent of the ambient PM-10; imagine how much less of the stuff you'll breathe in over the course of a year.

3. Anyone who's ever cleaned a bathroom with a strong chemical knows that the fumes can make you feel strange for a little while. But now folks who clean homes and offices for a living are reporting long-term health effects like blurred vision and respiratory problems, which they blame on the increasing number of surface-specific cleaners they have to use. Nowadays we've got glass cleaner, vinyl cleaner, stainless-steel cleaner, cleaners for carpet, for wood floors, for tile. Sure, they work great, but who can say what they do to the human body? The simple stuff our moms used -- soap and water, baking soda, vinegar for the windows -- worked just fine and is known to be safe. And there are a ton of new cleaners based on natural solvents like citrus oil that work as well or better than artificial products. It can't hurt to switch over to them. Check out or

4. Lack of sleep is a remarkable ager. And many Americans -- including the majority of Americans over 65 -- cannot sleep through the night. There are many reasons for this, aside from simply being too busy to get enough rest. One is that you're overweight and you can't breathe well because fat has built up around your throat. If your neck size is greater than 17 inches, you have a greater chance of developing sleep apnea. Other people have difficulties with certain chemicals released by the brain during sleep. And a third source of sleep problems comes from GERD, gastroesophageal reflux, aka acid-reflux disease: You eat late at night, and then you have acid reflux. This is the most common and, fortunately, the most treatable reason.

First, elevate your head a little bit in bed -- that will help keep the acid down in the stomach, where it belongs. Also, don't eat for at least three hours before you go to bed. (If you really can't resist, go for a cup of noncaffeinated tea or a piece of fruit. Those things are gentle on the stomach but still fulfill the desire to eat something.)

By the way, television before bedtime is absolutely psychotic, because it gets your mind racing and decreases the chance of sex (which of course would lead to better-quality sleep). Couples who don't have a TV in their bedroom have more than twice as much sex as those who do.

5. The last environmental factor to look at is relationships -- not just with your spouse or significant other but with your friends and family. And it's sort of harsh to ask people, but we need to get at the point: Who's gonna be unhappy if something bad happens to you? If the answer is no one, that's a problem. We are social creatures, and we need to be part of a pack. If we don't achieve that -- and we can get it many different ways, through religion or through mambo classes, it doesn't matter -- then we're not being fully human.

That's part of the issue with sex. Why the hell do you have sex besides having to procreate? First of all, sex is a survival tool. Sure, we're all busy, but there are compelling health reasons to do it, and do it often:

Men who have sex 116 times a year live 1.6 years longer than those who hit the national average of 58 times a year. Guys who do it 350 times per annum -- admittedly a heroic accomplishment -- should live an average of eight years longer. :-) But there's also the fact that, for most of us, orgasm is the closest we get to God. It's our Zen experience. Everything disappears, and it's all bliss. That's why meaningful sexual relationships are so critical.

But other relationships are just as important. There have been a series of studies lately on communities where people tend to live an especially long time, where the average life span is way above average. And one of the things that's common to these communities is the close ties between generations of family and between friends. Here in America, you see your parents on holidays. They see your kids -- their grandkids -- once or twice a year. If you're like a lot of parents, you don't even see your own kids much during the workweek. But in those communities with long life spans, all the generations gather around the dinner table every night. And friends see one another regularly, too. Now, obviously, we can't all do that. But we can do things to approximate it. Schedule time to just hang out with your old pal. Make dinner family time. Call your folks more often. Because here's the real truth: Your heart has to have a reason to keep beating.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lead in Children's Jewelry

Earlier this year, four-year-old boy died after swallowing a lead-filled charm. After many months, Consumer Product Safety Commission has cleared the way for tighter regulation of children's jewelry. On Dec 11, the commission voted to have its staff prepare an advanced notice of proposed rule making for publication in the Federal Register that is expected to call for strict limits on how much lead is allowed in children's jewelry. The move is in response to a petition by the nonprofit Sierra Club.

This lead jewelry was manufactured in China. There are so many toys and jewelries that have some lead content. If you have young child, make sure that you inspect the toys and jewelries before giving it to the child, especially if those items were manufactured in China. Consumer Product Safety Commission just started the process, it would take a year to have complete ban in place.

Lead is often found in shiny, metallic children's jewelry, such as rings and charms from vending machines, or sparkly costume necklaces and bracelets, safety regulators say. The commission has issued 14 recalls involving more than 160 million children's jewelry products since 2004.

Lead is a heavy metal that when ingested can adversely affect the central nervous system, kidneys and blood cells. Even low levels in children and fetuses can cause problems with physical development, behavioral issues and lower IQ levels. In high amounts, the metal can cause convulsions, coma and death. The concern with lead in jewelry is that children will put it in their mouths or swallow it, safety regulators say.

Current law bans any children's product that contains hazardous levels of lead, but doesn't specify what those levels are. Two years ago, the commission instituted an interim enforcement policy that requires secondary testing on children's jewelry found to contain more than 0.06% total lead. If the second test shows that 175 micrograms of lead or more is accessible, or easily ingested, the product is usually recalled. The proposed rule would do away with the second test, and place a flat ban on any children's jewelry product that contains more than 0.06% lead.

If consumers are concerned about lead in children's jewelry, safety officials recommend they talk to retailers to find out if they have a low-lead policy and if they test their products. They also say that parents with children inclined to put things in their mouths should consider avoiding toy jewelry.

Politicians also urge everyone to be careful about lead in toys. Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California said "the best way to protect our children would be to ban lead above trace levels in all children's products, not just toy jewelry."

Earlier this week, Rep. Waxman and Sen. Barack Obama released the results of a report they commissioned on lead in children's products, which found dangerous levels of lead in children's gifts and jewelry in Capitol gift shops. The items were removed from the shops when management was notified of the results.

Fuel Saving Tips

Oil price goes up and down so erratically. OPEC plans to cut production, you can expect the price of gasoline goes up. May be we are going to see $3+ per gallon again.

Here are some tips that would help you to save the gasoline, and the money.

TAKE IT EASY. You can start with observing the speed limit when you're on the highway. The EPA's rule of thumb is that for every five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph, it's like paying an additional 20 cents a gallon for gas. Slowing your rate of acceleration from a stoplight can also help conserve a lot of gas -- as much as a quarter of a tank each time you fill up, if you drive with an extremely light foot. Also, if driving a manual-transmission vehicle, try to get in the highest suitable gear as fast as possible, thus minimizing the engine speed.

CRUISE CONTROL. The EPA suggests engaging cruise control on the highway for better fuel management. A microchip, in theory, is able to control the flow of gasoline to the engine more smoothly than your foot can. The Magliozzi brothers, however, think cruise control is a bad idea, for safety reasons. They suggest the money you save isn't worth the potential danger of having your foot off the gas.

LIGHTEN UP. Take everything out of the car that you don't need so your engine doesn't have to work as hard. If packing the car for a road trip, the AAA suggests packing only what you need, and keeping luggage inside the vehicle rather than strapping to the roof where it creates wind resistance.

STAY IN TUNE. Keep up with regular maintenance. estimates, for example, that a properly working oxygen sensor -- a standard part in today's automobile engines -- can affect your fuel economy by as much 40%. The Department of Energy estimates that drivers can improve their gas mileage by as much as 10% by simply changing their air filter every 12,000 miles.

PUMP THEM UP. Many experts say properly inflated tires play a big role in maintaining good fuel economy. Drivers should be vigilant about holding true to manufacturers' suggestions on tire inflation, which typically are printed on a sticker placed on the door pillar or in the glove box. Generally, underinflated treads lower gas mileage about a half-percent for each pound lacking when the pressure of all four tires is added up.

COOL IT ON THE AC. AAA suggests drivers use air conditioners conservatively. The agency says most air conditioners have an "economy or "recirculation" setting that reduces the amount of outside air that must be chilled. Both settings can reduce the air conditioner's workload and save gas.

The above tips are taken from Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Myspace or Con-space?

A technology reporter for Wired Magazine uncovered hundreds of convicted sex offenders on MySpace with a computer program that he developed, leading to one man's arrest. Following is the news excerpts from

There are more than 100 million users on MySpace, an online social networking service largely used by young people who post profiles and pictures of themselves, but it's also used by another group: sexual predators.

How many sexual predators use the site is a question that MySpace — and sites like it — have long contended is too difficult to answer.

But for Wired senior editor Kevin Poulsen that answer came quickly.

"There were some with records of crimes against children with a large number of children on their lists," Poulsen told ABC News.

Using names and addresses of convicted sex offenders on state registries, the editor designed his own computer program to cross-reference that information with profiles listed on MySpace.

Inputting close to 386,000 sex offenders from 46 states, Poulsen found thousands of possible matches.

Poulsen began looking at the site, combing through 7,000 profiles. Among them, he said, were 744 sex offenders with profiles on the site.

One particular sex offender stood out.

"In his MySpace profile, he had links to half a dozen kids — all young boys — and he was posting messages to their public comment boards of a sexual nature," Poulsen said.

The police stepped in, and posing as a teenager, investigators started sending him messages.

He took the bait.

"This guy was a registered level three sex offender with a profile on MySpace, actively looking for young boys to molest," said Sgt. John Cowie of the Suffolk County Police Department in New York.

The husband and father of five is now behind bars. (I don't understand how a father of five children can even think like this. There is something really wrong with this guy's brain, if he has one)

For its part, MySpace said it had been pushing for federal legislation that would require convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses, even testifying before Congress about the difficulties in policing these types of sites.

Child advocates said this most recent case proved that MySpace and sites like it could do more right now.

In the most recent arrest, the convicted sex offender had been out of prison for just a year before his profile was on MySpace.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

$800 Toilet Seat

Dennis Kozlowski had $6,000 curtain in his bathroom. (I don't know whether he has curtain in the prison!) For the rest of us, $6,000 curtain is just too much. How about $800 toilet seat?

For people with medical problems, this expensive toilet seat may be worth looking into... uh.. worth sitting on it. Check out the product line at

Monday, December 11, 2006

Emerging markets Guru sees 2007 as good year for International Equity

Emerging markets performed very well for the past few years. Will this continue in 2007 also? Emerging markets Guru Mark Mobius believes so. Following is the news from Reuters.

A flood of money being sent overseas by U.S. investors, reasonable equity valuations and worldwide optimism all indicate 2007 will be another good year for international markets, emerging markets guru Mark Mobius said on Monday.

Investments by hedge funds and private equity firms in pre-IPO companies, in addition to money from institutional investors, have increased liquidity in global markets, Mobius told the Reuters Investment Outlook 2007 Summit in New York.

Mobius, who spoke from Dubai, said markets have not reached a bubble stage and equity valuations have not become stretched, with the exception of certain markets, such as India's software and pharmaceutical sectors.

Next year is shaping up similarly to 2006, which bodes well for international and emerging markets, as "we're beginning to get a situation where people feel they missed the boat" after the rise in prices this year, he said.

China-region, Latin American and European funds all have returned more than 30 percent so far this year, according to data from Lipper Inc., a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

Investors also want to diversify their portfolios and hope to obtain higher returns than in the United States, Mobius said. A weak dollar also is pushing money abroad.
"We are seeing now increased international interest in non-dollar assets. That is why we are seeing more money in emerging markets," Mobius said.

If the perception of the international investor is that the United States is cleaning up its house regarding the government's debt load and the balance of payments, "we will see a reversal pretty fast."

Optimism is running very high, he said. The spread between emerging market debt and U.S. Treasuries has narrowed to about 2 percentage points, and the return on equity in emerging market stocks is now higher than prevailing interest rates, another sign of increased investment and investor interest, he said.

"Domestic investors are becoming more key to emerging markets. They look at things differently to maybe what we would be looking at," he said.

That interest also helps the emerging markets outlook, he said. "We have very little cash in our portfolio, an indication that we are still finding things to invest in," he said.

Mobius, who is often called the face of emerging markets investing, was in Dubai to meet clients and to look at companies, though he said he had not made any investments yet.

"We're looking pretty actively since stock prices have come down pretty substantially," he said. As an example, he said a few of the big property companies are down by 50 percent.

"That's not to say it's a time to buy, but it's an indication of what has happened," he said.

Mobius still likes oil companies because his team believes even if the price of a barrel of oil plunges to $30, oil companies can still make money. Mining companies are another favorite, he said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

E.Coli in Green Onions

If we get out of the house, there is no guarantee that we would come back alive! Pessimistic, isn’t it? But looking at the news reports, it’s hard to be optimistic.

Few days ago, Taco Bell ordered green onions removed from its 5,800 U.S. restaurants after tests suggested they may be responsible for the E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least three dozen people in three states. The fast-food chain said preliminary testing by an independent lab found three samples of green onions appeared to have a dangerous strain of the bacteria.

"In an abundance of caution, we've decided to pull all green onions from our restaurants until we know conclusively whether they are the cause of the E. coli outbreak," said Greg Creed, president of Taco Bell. The company wouldn't immediately identify the supplier of the scallions, so it was unclear whether contaminated green onions reached other restaurants or supermarkets.

Tainted green onions from Mexico were blamed for a 2003 outbreak of hepatitis A in western Pennsylvania that was also traced to a Mexican restaurant. Four people died and more than 600 people were sickened after eating the green onions at a Chi-Chi's.

California is the nation's largest supplier of green onions. But by December, as winter sets in, the vegetable is often imported from Mexico.

The Taco Bell chain reopened restaurants linked to the outbreak on New York's Long Island after the outlets were sanitized. And two of three New Jersey Taco Bells implicated have also reopened, with authorities awaiting test results on customers from the third place. The fast-food chain closed nine outlets in suburban Philadelphia after health officials reported four people falling ill from E. coli.

McLane Co., which distributes food to the region's Taco Bells, said federal investigators planned to test green onions, regular onions, cilantro, tomatoes and lettuce from its southern New Jersey warehouse.

Nine people remained hospitalized, including an 11-year-old boy in stable condition with kidney damage. New Jersey's health commissioner has said the most recent case of E. coli was reported Nov. 29, so the danger of infection appears to have passed.

E. coli is found in the feces of humans and livestock. Most E. coli infections are associated with undercooked meat. The bacteria also can be found on sprouts or leafy vegetables such as spinach. Earlier this year, three people died and more than 200 fell ill in an E. coli outbreak that was traced to packaged, fresh spinach grown in California.

If you suspect that the meat might have E-coli, you may try to cook it very well. But, with the vegetables, we won’t suspect a thing, well… until now. Fruits and vegetables are now responsible for more large-scale outbreaks of food-borne illnesses than meat, poultry or eggs. Overall, produce accounts for 12% of food –borne illnesses and 6% of the outbreaks, up from 1% of the illnesses and 0.7% of the outbreaks since 1970s, according to the data from CDC.

Both the government and food industry have identified five vegetables that are particularly problematic: Tomatoes, Melons (especially cantaloupes), Lettuce, Sprouts and Green onions.

Update on Dec 13th: CDC thinks that the Lettuce was the culprit in Taco Bell outbreak, not the green onions.

India's growth boosts short-term optimism

In the three months ended Sept. 30, gross domestic product rose 9.2% from a year earlier, the India's Central Statistical Organization said. The robust growth, powered by strong spending by Indian consumers and corporations, topped the 8.4% expansion in the same quarter of 2005 and was above analysts' expectations of GDP growth of 8.9%.

In the April-June period, India's GDP expanded 8.9% from a year earlier. The spurt in the two latest quarters means the country's economy grew at a rate close to China's in the first six months of the financial year that began April 1.

"The growth witnessed in the fiscal first half is the highest-ever growth since economic reforms started in 1991," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said. "Just savor the moment."

India's surprisingly strong quarterly expansion has economists raising short-term growth forecasts but worrying that inflation and interest rates could rise and crimp growth in the longer term.

The unexpectedly strong performance gives some economists jitters. While few say India's economy is overheating, they caution that the faster expansion means politicians and financial regulators must keep a closer watch on the potentially negative side effects of increasing affluence.

Inflation, for example, is dangerously close to breaching the target rate set by India's central bank for the financial year of 5% to 5.5%. As measured by India's wholesale price index, inflation was running at 5.29% year-to-year in the week ended Nov. 11, and some analysts suggest it may have already risen above 5.5%.

Higher growth and inflation rates will likely persuade the Reserve Bank of India to raise its key rates at its next quarterly meeting in January, if not before.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Venture Capital Alternative to Student Loans

James Pethokoukis wrote a good article on student loans. I think this kind of approach would work very well in India. Only catch is that Indian legal system may be in favour of students even if they fail to pay the "future income". Although this article jokes about "indentured servitude", you can put out a contract to specify the duration for payment -- say, for full 5 years after graduation.

I see that this is a win-win situation. Students get the loans for studies, Financiers get the part of future income. This arrangment may turn into really crazy battle, if financiers behave like "kandhu-vatti" people. I am sure there are lot of poor students in India that would go for this kind of system if given a chance. I keep reading about poor students scoring excellent grades in +2, but couldn't afford college tuition.This is a microfinance version for education loans.

Who owns the copyright for the music?

A.R. Rahman recently asked for royalty for his music. Another blogger also wrote about this. What Rahman asks for is really fair. Many countries have that kind of arrangement. In India, all the money goes to film producers and audio companies. Musicians should own the sound tracks they created, not the film producers. I haven’t heard what happened after the initial reports. It will be interesting to watch the developments.

When I was looking for further developments on this subject, I read this blog Someone named his blog after rahman! Man, that is the power of Music ;-)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blog by Yahoo guys

I just came to know about the blog by Terry Semel, CEO of Yahoo. Many Yahoo insiders contribute to this blog. I enjoyed this informative blog. I hope that you too will enjoy this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Leadership Lessons

Ram Charan wrote an excellent article in Yahoo finance today. Check out this here.

I wish that all the CEOs listen and follow this. I know that it's not going to happen, just a wish.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MIT Technovators awards for 10 Indians

Ten young innovators of Indian origin, working at the cutting edge of technology, have been awarded the Global Indus Technovators Awards 2006, an initiative of the Indian Business Club (IBC) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

This year's winners are: Adam Rasheed, Rajeev Ram, Aref Chowdhury, Krishna Kumar, Shiladitya Sengupta, Anita Goel, Sameer Sawarkar, Vikram Akula, Anuj Batra and Rajit Manohar. Congratulations to all the winners!!

IBC is a student-run organisation chaired by graduate students at MIT. It was established in 2002 as an initiative of Sangam, the Indian student's organisation at MIT.

Dr. Anita Goel (Nanobiosym Inc), Dr. Krishna Kumar (Tufts University) and Dr. Shiladitya Sengupta (MIT) won the awards in the area of biotechnology/medicine/healthcare.

Goel is the president of Nanobiosym Labs and Nanobiosym Diagnostics Inc., which focus on developing next-generation diagnostic capabilities.

Kumar, chairperson of the department of chemistry at Tufts University, is an expert on peptide therapies and has authored patents with an immense potential to impact cancer management.

Sengupta, co-founder of ANGENIX Ltd. won the award for one of his biggest innovations, the nano cell, according to a press release.

Dr. Aref Chowdhury (Bell Labs), Dr. Rajeev V. Ram (MIT) and Dr. Adam Rasheed (GE) are the three recipients of the materials and devices awards.

Chowdhury is a technical staff member at Bell Labs and his innovations are in the field of nonlinear optics, a field critical to improving long-haul optical transport networks.

Ram, currently a faculty member at MIT, is widely acknowledged for his work in the field of optoelectronics and is one of the pioneers in the semiconductor based laser science and technology.

Rasheed, a research engineer at GE Global Research Center, is widely recognised for his work in the GE-NASA project on pulsed detection engine feeding an axial turbine, for which he received the innovator award.

Dr. Anuj Batra and Dr. Rajit Manohar (Achronix Semiconductor) won the award in the field of information technology.

Batra, who currently works on highspeed digital communication technology at Texas Instruments (TI), is highly acknowledged for his developmental efforts of ultra wideband (UWB) technology.

Manohar, cofounder of Achronix Semiconductor, is currently an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University and is a pioneer in asynchronous semiconductor design.

The winners of this year's Grassroots category award are Vikram Akula (SKS) and Sameer Sawarkar (Neurosynaptic Comm. Ltd).

Akula launched SKS Microfinance in 1998. It is one of the fastest growing microfinance organisations in the world, having provided over $33 million in loans and helping over 300,000 people in becoming economically self reliant.

Sawarkar, founder of Neurosynaptic Communications Pvt, Ltd, works in the areas of remote medical diagnostics and telemedicine.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ICE is Nicer

I wrote about ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) on 11/16. It's marching ahead. Looks like next target is around $124. Keep your stop losses in place and watch the money growing!

Monday, December 04, 2006

WiMAX and Mobile Broadband

If you are an entrepreneur interested to learn more about WiMAX, this event will help you.

You can find out about the opportunities that the build-out of WiMAX provides entrepreneurs and established players from the perspective of operators, chipset suppliers, content and application providers; as well as how entrepreneurs can determine what technologies will be utilized to build-out WiMAX, and what killer applications will emerge out of 4G.

Host: Shaukat Shamim
Adolfo Masini, VP, Product Management Wireless Broadband Networks, Motorola
Ronny Haraldsvik, VP of Marketing, Mobile Broadband, Qualcomm
Shahin Hedayat, Chairman, CEO & Co-founder, Beceem Communications
Brian Kang, Principal Investment Manager, Samsung Ventures America
Li-Bu Tan, Chairman, Walden International

This event will be held on Tuesday,12 December, 2006, 6 PM - 8PM

TiE Conference Center
2903 Bunker Hill Lane, Suite 108
Santa Clara, CA 95054

For registration and more details, click here.

Powered Google?

It’s time again to write about Google. Google’s search is good. So does Yahoo’s search. I don’t see much difference between results of Google and Yahoo for the same keyword. Investors don't really care about that, all they look for is the bottom line. Google makes much more money than Yahoo, so investors love Google and hate Yahoo. I own both stocks. I am happy to see when Google goes up. Obviously, I am not very happy when Yahoo is punished.

Apart from search, I think Yahoo is the better web service than Google. For example, take email service. New email beta from Yahoo is excellent. Gmail is just the opposite. I still use Gmail to get limited amount of emails mainly because of some services like Google Adwords and Adsense require the gmail account. I am used to folders in the email account. Just for this one simple reason, I will always stick with Yahoo mail. Gmail labels are just crap. I still can’t understand why Gmail guys don’t understand the importance of folders.

Anyway, enough of rambling… There is going to be new search engine called Powerset. There is lot of hype about this secretive start-up. Powerset recently raised $12.5 million toward its goal of developing the first search engine that interprets the meaning of phrases and sentences rather than simply identifying specific keywords. Many people think that Powerset is going to be the real competitor for Google. If you own Google, watch out for these new developments.

Useful Tips

I learnt these tips from couple of magazines. Here is the summary.

Use the right batteries

Have you ever wondered why your digital camera quickly drain AA batteries? Here is the answer.

Traditional alkaline batteries work well in CD players and toys that don't require much power. But they sometimes provide only enough juice in digital cameras for a few dozen photos. Nickel oxyhydroxide and lithium pack more punch in each AA or AAA battery cell, and can more than double the number of pictures you can take with a digital camera.

More info:

Match the device with the right kind of battery. Brands such as Duracell, Energizer and Panasonic feature types of batteries that are designed for power-hungry gadgets such as portable-music players and digital cameras, providing a higher voltage and longer battery life. Rechargeable batteries work well in such devices and can save money in the long run. They provide less voltage and cost more initially, but they can be recharged hundreds of times depending on the battery's capacity.

How to Reduce the Screen Glare

Best option to reduce the screen glare is to Blink more and change some of the screen settings.
People who stare at light reflecting off a monitor tend to blink less. This lack of moisture can cause visual strain. The computer's settings also may have been changed by a previous user, meaning that the resolution and refresh rate need to be adjusted to reduce the amount of time it takes for your eyes to refocus.

The recommended screen resolution for a 17-inch monitor is 1,024 x 768 pixels and the average refresh rate is between 60 to 70 hertz. Resolution determines how many data are on the screen. The refresh rate controls the frequency of the screen's flickering. Both settings are under the display properties' settings tab.

Lowering the brightness and contrast levels of the screen can help to reduce the level of headache-inducing light and dims the tone of colors. A screen's brightness level should be in the upper 40s and the contrast in the lower 60s.

Fighting Off Jet Lag

After an overnight flight, American Airlines flight attendant Rosemary Wharton wears sunglasses on the ride from the airport so she can sleep when she gets to her hotel. Otherwise, bright light makes her too alert.

Once there, she usually naps for a few hours but makes sure not to sleep too long so she can adjust faster to the new time. Ms. Wharton stays hydrated before each flight so her body can recover quickly, but avoids drinking too much during the flight so she can sleep instead of going to the bathroom a lot.

If you use sleep medication, she recommends doing a tryout before your trip so you don't discover the side effects while over the North Atlantic.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Year-End Networking Party - TiE

If you live in bay area, you may want to take this opportunity to network.

TiE Silicon Valley is planning a year-end Networking Party for all TiE Members and their guests with TiE Charter Members, Sponsor Members and the Chairs and Advisory Council Members of the various TiE SIGs and Forums.

The main focus of this social event is networking so there will be no speakers and no planned agenda. This will be an excellent opportunity for you to network and connect with the movers and shakers of TiE Silicon Valley.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006 6:30p.m. - 9:30p.m.
Venue: Illusions260 S. California Ave.Palo Alto, California 94306

More details can be found in

Friday, December 01, 2006

Distressed Real Estate

Wall Street Journal ran a good article about distressed real estate few days ago. Yahoo finance has the free version of this article in You need to be a paid subscriber to read this in

Everyone talks about decline in housing prices. In bay area, I don't see much of decline in the prices. Sure, there are lot more inventory, but the sellers are still greedy. Check out listings in craigslist for bayarea. 3BR house in Fremont still goes for $700k; Price came down by $30k, that's about it. I don't see heavy fall in these prices. Wall street journal predicts that there may be lot of foreclosures next year. I am not too sure. If Fed cuts the interest rate early next year, there will be a real estate bubble - version 2.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Berkshire Hathaway - Update

Berkshire shares may face some short-term fall due to an article by Jim Jubak, noted columnist in MSN money. Jim has loyal followers, he issued "Sell" on Berkshire. You can read his article here --

It's not that Jim doesn't like this stock. He thinks high of this, but he wants to sell it now because of lack of opportunities for Buffett to invest. If you want to be a long-term holder of this stock wait for few days, I think Jim's gang would bring down the price.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dow down 158!

Market went down today due to couple of reasons. Report of weak sales in Walmart and falling dollar. Moreover, many people made big gains in the last 4 months, it’s time to take profit for these guys. A little bit of profit-taking is healthy at this point.

I don’t worry too much about today’s decline. I think it’s an opportunity to buy stocks. Regarding Walmart, as usual wall street over reacted. I personally think it’s the time to buy Walmart and also its Indian partnet Bharti. If they pull off the retail venture in India, it’s going to be huge for both the companies.

An Evening with Andy Grove

If you live in Bay area, it’s the opportunity to meet Andy Grove, the man behind the success of Intel.

On December 4th, Monday, at 6;30pm the following event is planned:

An Evening with Dr. Richard Tedlow, Professor, Harvard Business School and Author of "Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American" and Andrew S. Grove, Senior Advisor, Intel Corporation In Conversation with Lakshmi Pratury

Venue: Los Altos High School Eagle Theater
201 Almond Ave, Los Altos
Tickets: $50 (Reserved Seating)
$35 (Open seating)

If you want to get the tickets, contact

Where is Russell 2000 headed?

Everyone in Wall Street says that large cap stocks will turn around this year. They also claim that end of rally for small stock is coming soon. So far, nothing happened like that. Small stocks are going up as they always did. Russell 2000 is up 17.7% for the year to date. However, stocks in the Russell 2000 face big risks from falling housing prices. Financial companies, including many regional banks, now make up more than a third of the index and may see big declines in fourth-quarter profits once those results begin to be released early next year.

For large-cap companies, most analysts expect profit growth to slow but remain solid in the months ahead. Analyst Ashwani Kaul of Reuters Estimates, which tracks Wall Street's earnings expectations, says his data indicate that profits at S&P 500 companies will grow about 10% in the fourth quarter. That would be modest compared with about 20% growth in the third quarter but enough to extend a record streak of double-digit growth to 18 quarters, according to Reuters Estimates.

If you have invested lot of money in small cap stocks, it's time to watch out. Nobody knows what is going to happen in next 6 months, but monitoring your (small cap) investments is the key.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mutual Funds for Beginners

If you are just starting investment in stock market you may not want to invest lot of money in the market. There are some good funds with $1,000 minimum, although many good funds need at least $2,500 to start with. Average $1,000-and-under fund has returned an annualized 5.25% over the last five years, compared with 6.34% for the average $1,000-plus fund. Still there are a number of excellent options in the former group.

The funds listed below requires just $1,000 minimum and registered handsome returns over the last few years. All these funds are no-load funds. Do your research before buying any of these funds.

BRUFX – Bruce Fund
EGLRX – Alpine International Real Estate
ICEUX – ICAP International
SSAIX – SsgA International Stock Selection
EGLBX – Elfun International Equity
TMVSX – Small cap value
ICSLX – Large cap value

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Novel Way to Reduce Home Energy Bills

In the latest bid to trim energy bills, some consumers are harnessing wind power in their own backyards -- as long as their neighbors don't balk.

While wind energy is commonly associated with massive turbines churning in desolate, windy areas, a new generation of smaller systems made for areas with moderate wind is hitting the market. The latest small turbines, which resemble a ship propeller on a pole, have three blades, are up to 24 feet in diameter and are usually perched on stand-alone towers between 35 and 140 feet high. The systems have the potential to save consumers between 30% and 90% on their electric bills, manufacturers say, and promise to make no more noise than an air conditioner. But tapping so-called small wind using a high-tech windmill can be costly, and homeowners may find themselves battling zoning officials and annoyed neighbors who find the towering devices unsightly.

Interest in small wind has jumped recently: the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group in Washington, estimates that U.S. sales of small-wind systems totaled $17 million in 2005, up 62% from 2004. At the same time, systems designed for residential use are being supported by a growing host of state incentives to offset the cost.

Southwest Windpower, a company based in Flagstaff, Ariz., last month unveiled the Skystream 3.7, which is more efficient in light wind and less costly and quieter than past turbines. Bergey Windpower Co., based in Norman, Okla., recently employed new airfoil technology in its BWC Excel model to make it more efficient in wind speeds as low as nine miles per hour, and the company Abundant Renewable Energy in Newberg, Ore., this year offers two new small wind turbines, the ARE110 and the more powerful ARE442, designed to be quiet and produce more energy in low-wind areas.

Wind turbines work by collecting energy from the wind and converting it into household power. In most cases, the house is still connected to the local power network and the wind power merely supplements power from the grid. Electricity produced by wind energy is deducted from the homeowner's meter. Utilities in most states offer "net metering," giving customers credit for producing excess power. In some cases, homeowners will actually see their meter spin backward as they generate the excess.

Prices of the latest systems depend on their peak capacity, measured in how many kilowatts they produce under optimal conditions. The Skystream, for example, has a capacity of 1.8 kw and starts at around $8,500 fully installed, whereas a 10 kw ARE442 on the highest tower offered can run up to $80,000 with installation. The higher the kilowatt capacity, the more electricity they produce.

Local zoning rules are thwarting some people who want to put up a small wind system. Many gated communities or neighborhood associations prohibit structures like wind turbines, and most municipal governments restrict building heights and may not grant variances for a wind tower.

Even if a system gains approval, neighbors can protest. When William Targosh applied with his local government to put a wind turbine and tower on his 11-acre property in Lansing, N.Y., he says the installation was delayed for almost a year because of protests from other residents, who worried the device would lower property values and threaten birds. (Manufacturers say collisions with birds are rare.) He reduced the height of his 120-foot turbine tower by 20 feet, sacrificing efficiency, he said. But once it was up, he says it cut his power bills by about 35%.

Despite the focus on large-scale wind farms and other renewable energy sources in recent years, the market has been slower to embrace residential wind power. In the past, wind turbines were seen as unwieldy and impractical for residential use, and researchers and manufacturers instead focused on commercial devices that could be more profitable. In addition, the industry says small-wind systems have been handicapped by a lack of federal incentives. While consumers can get a 30% federal tax credit up to $2,000 for solar electric and water heating systems, no similar program exists for residential wind systems. But some lawmakers trying to change that: Bills proposed in this year in both the U.S. House and Senate would offer a 30% credit for residential wind systems.

"Small wind" is generally defined as noncommercial systems that have a capacity of 100 kilowatts, though systems installed for residential use are usually 10 kw or less. Despite the segment's growth, small wind still makes up just a sliver of overall U.S. wind-energy capacity, which was nearly 10,000 megawatts as of June 1, or enough to serve 2.5 million households, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The systems aren't for city dwellers or residents of tightly packed suburbs. Those interested in small systems should have at least a half-acre of property, wind speeds of at least 10 mph and electric bills of $60 a month or more to make installing the system worthwhile, manufacturers say. It's helpful if they live in states with programs that can help offset the costs. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the states offering incentives. New York started a program in 2003 that gives consumers up to 50% cash back on the costs of a residential wind system and also offers low-interest loans. In California, people who purchase small wind systems can receive rebates based on the system size; for example, a $50,000 10 kw system can be eligible for a rebate of $22,500.

Some homeowners in areas with rising power bills say they will recoup the cost of their system within a few years. Arthur Larrivee, a real-estate appraiser in Dartmouth, Mass., this summer paid around $16,000 for two Bergey wind turbines equipped with solar panels to nearly eliminate the $150 a month it costs him to power his 1,600 square-foot home. Mr. Larrivee says he will receive about $9,000 in tax credits and rebates, and with the local utility's credit program for excess power, combined with what he will save on electric bills, he will earn back the rest of his investment in three to five years.

He asks "The wind is blowing all day long and it's free -- why shouldn't I use it?"

Courtesy: Business Week

Berkshire Hathaway – A Bargain?

At $100,000+ a share, billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. could be the cheapest most-expensive stock around. Just before Thanksgiving Berkshire shares closed at $107,700. The stock is up 5,555 times since May 10, 1965, the day Mr. Buffett took control of the former textile company and the stock closed at $18 a share.

By contrast, the Dow Jones Industrials Average is up about 13 times since Mr. Buffett took over Berkshire.

The stock's eye-popping size is by design. Mr. Buffett, Berkshire's chairman, has long opposed a stock split on the theory that the high price tends to discourage buying by short-term traders. Still, Berkshire a decade ago started issuing lower-priced Class B shares, mainly to pre-empt the efforts of an entrepreneur in Philadelphia who planned to launch a fund offering investors fractional exposure to Class A shares. Today the Class B shares, each equivalent to 1/30th of a Class A share, closed at $3,593.

Despite its high price, some analysts say Berkshire, which now owns some 50 businesses ranging from underwear maker Fruit of the Loom to auto insurer Geico, has room to climb. "It's a 75-cent dollar right now," says Justin Fuller, an analyst at Morningstar in Chicago, meaning it is about 25% undervalued. Mr. Fuller, who says he doesn't own any Berkshire stock, values the stock around $129,000 a share.

Berkshire, of Omaha, Neb., trades at a relatively inexpensive 1.6 times its "book value," or its assets minus its liabilities. By comparison, American International Group Inc., the insurance giant, trades at about two times book value, while Citigroup Inc. trades at about 2.2 times book. (Like Berkshire, those two companies have large securities portfolios and sell financial products.)

One probable reason the stock isn't trading higher is that investors are concerned about who will run the business once Mr. Buffett, who is 76 years old, leaves or dies. Mr. Buffett has said he and his board have agreed on a successor, but the candidate could change as time wears on and Mr. Buffett is still alive. The name hasn't been released to the public.

Berkshire is sitting on a huge pile of cash -- about $42 billion as of the end of the second quarter. Even though Mr. Buffett has been aggressive this year about investing that war chest, the pile continues to mount, and that makes for smaller returns than if it were invested in operating companies, rather than short-term bond investments, for example.

Unlike companies that obsess over maintaining smooth earnings, Mr. Buffett is willing to tolerate swings in earnings, so Berkshire generates a higher return on its assets with less financial risk. Ratings firms have rewarded his strategy by giving Berkshire the only triple-A rating in the insurance industry. In contrast, many other companies choose to engage in the potentially risky practice of using borrowed money during periods of lower returns to magnify small investments to maintain earnings.

Berkshire's earnings growth also has momentum, analysts say. The company is expected to deliver strong earnings in the third and fourth quarters of this year and into 2007.

Berkshire's most profitable operating companies are usually its insurance operations. The reinsurance units, which underwrite catastrophe policies for other insurers, are likely to post their biggest profits ever this year. That's because Berkshire has been able to charge much higher premiums since hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year pushed up prices, producing big returns after this year's relatively mild weather resulted in no major losses.

"It'll be a banner year," says Tom Story, a portfolio manager at Chicago investment firm William Blair & Co. Mr. Story personally owns Berkshire shares and manages accounts that own the stock.

Geico is also a big driver of earnings. While the auto insurer accounts for just 7% of the nation's market share, it is signing up customers at a rate three to four times faster than the industry pace. And despite heavy spending on advertising -- it is on track to spend about $600 million on ads this year, much more than its industry peers -- Geico maintains among the highest margins in the industry, thanks to its lower cost structure and higher price.

If you want to save the money in car insurance it’s better not to sign up with Geico! They run catchy ads, but their price is just ridiculous. No wonder, Geico maintains the highest margin in the industry.

Analysts reckon all of Berkshire's insurance units, including Geico, will post underwriting profit of $2.5 to $3 billion for the full year barring any major losses before year end. That would be the group's all-time best performance.

Analyst estimates of Berkshire's full-year net income range from $7 billion to $8 billion, excluding investment gains, compared with about $5 billion last year.

Even Mr. Buffett is optimistic. While he declined to talk about the share price or the outlook for earnings, he did say in a recent interview that "so far, insurance has been quite good and Geico has been doing terrifically."

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

I wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving Day! I am really thankful for the recent market rally, it feels good to have some money on the table with turkey. I hope that this rally continues until Fed screws up sometime next year.

Enjoy your day with the people you care about!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Roth 401(k) plans

Roth 401(k) plans and Roth 403(b)s -- which are generally available to employees at colleges and nonprofits -- are tailor-made for younger workers who have the money available to pay taxes now and who may very well wind up in the same, or an even higher, tax bracket in retirement.

With a Roth 401(k), or Roth 403(b), you pay taxes on your retirement-plan contributions when you make them -- but your withdrawals generally are tax-free. And, if you roll over your Roth 401(k) assets to a Roth IRA, you don't have to make any required withdrawals. With a regular 401(k) plan, in contrast, you contribute pretax dollars -- but you have to pay taxes on your withdrawals later. That's why people try to figure out their future tax bracket, and future income-tax rates.

Few people can predict those variables with any certainty. Another complication: Many people, particularly those with traditional pensions, postpone making withdrawals from defined-contribution plans for years and years after starting retirement. That makes it even tougher to predict the future tax situation.

Some people think that enormous federal deficit hanging over us may force the government to change the tax structure in the future. Meaning that you may pay lot more tax when you withdraw the money. The advantage with Roth 401(k) is that you pay the taxes now. Other advantage to opening a Roth 401(k) while you're working is that you can convert it to a Roth IRA when you retire. If you wind up not needing the money in retirement, you could leave a compounding, tax-free legacy to your heirs.

Short Activity on NYSE Takes a Tumble

Short-selling activity fell at the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since February, as the stock market's continued rally to records finally scared off some bearish investors.

For the monthly period ended Nov. 15, the number of short-selling positions not yet closed out at NYSE -- so-called short interest -- declined 1% to 9,648,665,452 shares from 9,744,698,431 shares in mid-October.

Marketwide, the short ratio, or number of days' average volume represented by the outstanding short positions at the exchange, fell to 6.0 from 6.2. Expect this rally to continue for few more weeks. If you are short on market, it's time to rethink your strategy!

Chinese Programmers

China's young programming hotshots are gaining global attention.

Meet "Wishing Bone." That's the online handle of Wu Jiazhi, a student at Zhejiang University who has become a big winner in the programming contests offered by TopCoder Inc., a Glastonbury (Conn.) company that works with the likes of America Online and Merrill Lynch. Topcoder invites programmers around the world to solve software problems over the Net. Within weeks of entering his first contest three years ago, Wu had bagged $2,500. "I bought my first laptop with that money," says the 26-year-old. After earning $200,000-plus from TopCoder since then, he now has enough cash to buy plenty more computers.

With programmers like Wu faring so well, the world is reassessing China's software industry. For years, multinationals such as Microsoft watched almost helplessly as Chinese consumers and corporations alike pirated their software. But the climate is improving as Beijing cracks down on intellectual-property violations. Although piracy remains a severe problem, "we've made a lot of progress," says Ya-Qin Zhang, the Beijing-based head of China research and development for Microsoft.

The Chinese government is hoping better training will also bolster the fledgling industry. In 2002 it launched software colleges at dozens of universities, with a focus on satisfying the needs of businesses. Today, there are 36 such schools in China, which have graduated a total of 60,000 students in the past three years. "Software colleges want to train talent for industry, not for academia," says Jack Wu, deputy dean of the software college at Peking University.

Topcoder is taking advantage of the deepening talent pool. President Robert Hughes says he's impressed by the quality of software engineers in China. Chinese programmers "have been innovative, thinking creatively in solving the problems we put out there," he says. TopCoder is now opening an office in Beijing, its first outside the U.S., to recruit more Chinese.

China is home to more than 40% of the programmers taking part in TopCoder competitions. Overall, China ranks third in TopCoder's software contests, well ahead of India.

This brings a point to discuss. India is the hot destination for all multinationals that want to outsource. But, to stay in the top, Indian software companies and programmers should create more innovative products than just cranking out the code for american companies. Anyone can write programs with little training. Software development is becoming more of a commodity. If India wants to compete with China, it has to innovate more and more. CMM certifications and low-cost advantage are not going to help India in the long-term. Chinese will catch up sooner than later.

With the current cost of salary for Indian software programmers, I am not sure how long India can keep the low-cost advantage. If the multinational companies move software outsourcing from India to China, that will have damaging effect on Indian economy. So, it's time for Indian software companies to start thinking more about innovation. It's also time for Indian programmers to stop asking for pay increases!

Walmart Bank -- Will it ever be possible?

When Wal-Mart Stores Inc. applied 15 months ago to get a banking license, it looked like a slam dunk. The retailing giant applied for an industrial-bank charter in Utah -- the same type of permit the state had already given to many companies including Volkswagen AG, Pitney Bowes Inc. and even another big retailer, Target Corp. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures deposits at banks, had blessed similar applications. To allay fears that it would compete with small banks, Wal-Mart promised not to open retail branches, saying it would use its bank to process card transactions.

But, Wal-Mart's banking bid is on life support now. The FDIC in July issued an unprecedented six-month moratorium on all applications for these specialized banks, freezing Wal-Mart's effort. Utah, which also must approve the application, has stayed mum. Powerful members of Congress are lining up to pass laws that would block Wal-Mart, or any nonfinancial company, from getting into the U.S. banking business.

That's bad news for the world's biggest retailer, which is already facing slowing growth in the U.S. and has stumbled in several overseas forays. Wal-Mart's effort to open a bank has galvanized a broad coalition of opponents: large banks, small banks, the Federal Reserve, unions, grocers, real-estate agents and congressmen of both parties. Some in the coalition are mainly interested in dealing a blow to Wal-Mart. Others are worried about the trend of allowing commercial companies into banking, which they fear could undermine the soundness of the financial system. That argument has been around for years, but it generated little political heat until Wal-Mart came along -- illustrating the power of the company's name to transform stalemated policy debates.

This illustrates another point. The power of political lobbying in U.S. I am sure that all the banks in U.S. are scared to death when they heard about Walmart’s intention to open the bank. These banks paid money to politicians to prevent Walmart from opening the bank. If the same thing happened in India, that’s called “Bribe”. Just because it’s happening in U.S., it’s called “Lobbying”.

The Power of Relationships in your career

Jim Citrin wrote an excellent article about the power of relationships. This article doesn’t give you step-by-step procedure to get more relationships. But, it does give some motivation to improve our communication skills and not screw up the existing relationships.

Here is the link to the article.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ICE is Nice

Quick note: Intercontinental Exchange looks promising. ICE is the symbol, I bought the stock last week. It's doing well. Technical analysis shows that this stock could reach $119. They announced good earnings, there is a very good momentum on this stock. Let us see where this will take us.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Options Education

Equity options are little challenging to learn and master. If you want to learn options, Options Industry Council is a good place to start. They offer good tutorials for free. They also have good webcasts that teach options. listed webcasts that are currently available.

If you are a beginner, start with “Introduction to Options”, otherwise topics like "Equity collars" may interest you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Solution to the contact lens solutions

If you have used any Bausch & Lomb product, I am sure it was very shocking to hear the news about contamination in ReNu contact lens solution. I used Bausch & Lomb on and off for many years. When I went for eye-exam last year, my optometrist told me that ReNu doesn’t fit very well with my eyes. He asked me not to use ReNu anymore. It was Jan 2005, well before any of these contamination news came to the picture. My optometrist suggested to use AoSept.

If you haven’t heard about ReNu mess, here is the brief summary: Bausch & Lomb Inc. recalled its ReNu with MoistureLoc contact-lens solution 7 months ago. This product had been linked to a serious fungal eye infection that can lead to blindness.

After Bausch & Lomb scare, everyone asks optometrists and ophthalmologists for the alternatives. Doctors say that lens wearers can enhance the safety of multipurpose solutions through careful use. They also recommend to use hydrogen-peroxide systems that offer an alternative -- though less convenient -- way to care for lenses. AoSept is the hydrogen-peroxide system. AoSept is also marketed as "Clear Care".

Hydrogen peroxide is regarded as an effective cleanser but must be used carefully, and can burn and sting if it accidentally comes in direct contact with the eye (though small amounts won't cause permanent damage). Believe me, it can really burn. I accidentally poured AoSept in the container meant for OxySept (Copycat Chinese version). AoSept is very discriminating, it doesn’t clean the lenses when it’s poured in competitor’s container. When I casually put the lens back in my eye the next day morning, it was almost like someone putting a fire in my eye. It was really bad. I had to wear the glasses for whole day.

The only safety concern with hyderogen peroxide solution is that they won’t work with some of the newer types of lenses, known as silicon hydrogels, they retain too much peroxide during their overnight soak.

Disposable contacts are another option, but only daily disposables can be used without disinfecting solution..If you are wearing any other contacts, regular checkup with optometrist is a must…To make sure there is no corneal staining, a pattern of spots indicating superficial damage, a common side effect for lens users with dry eyes.

Some optometrists feel that their patients are engaged in an activity called "topping off," that is adding new solution on top of old solution when placing lenses in their case. Instead, optometrists say, users should completely empty and clean their lens case after every use before filling it with entirely new solution. That will decrease some of the microbial content that can cause eye infections. Optometrists recommend frequently replacing lens cases, perhaps as often as every month. The cases, if neglected or used for too long, can become hotbeds for bacteria. Lens-solution manufacturers have caught on to this advice and now more frequently include new cases in packages.

In June, Ciba Vision (maker of AoSept) began including a new lens case with its multipurpose solution, Aquify. The Pro-Guard Lens Case contains silver, meant to help eliminate microbes festering within the container. The company says a clinical trial found that the silver atoms reduce the chance of outside contamination by 40%.

Other tips for contact-lens safety may seem obvious, but optometrists say their patients often fail to follow them: Wash your hands before handling your contacts, don't rinse your lenses in tap water, and try to touch only the outside of the lens when placing it on your eye. Some optometrists also caution against swimming with lenses in. They call the pools as "contaminated area," and recommend that if people don't take out their contacts, they should wear goggles or keep their eyes closed.

Ok, I deviated from my main topic. If you have sensitive eyes, AoSept is the best choice. It’s expensive, it’s not very easy to use. Still, I don’t want to take any chances. Another better alternative may be to undergo laser surgery. I am not comfortable about going thru laser surgery, because of night vision problems associated with lasik whether it is old lasik or custom lasik. I will wait for few more years to see if the researchers come up with better alternatives. Until then, I will safely keep my glasses, just in case.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Worries Mount Over Excessive CAT Scans

When we undergo CT scanning, we don’t normally realize that we expose ourselves to harmful radiation. Some doctors began to observe that excessive CAT scans could create a really harmful situation.

There haven't been any studies that directly examined whether people who had multiple CT scans went on to develop cancer. But as the number of CT scans has climbed, some doctors have started to take notice of individual patients who have received multiple scans that place their total radiation doses at levels near or beyond those of some survivors of the nuclear attacks on Japan in World War II. Residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki received a mean dosage of 20 millisieverts, a measurement of radiation exposure, although the bomb survivors received all the radiation at once, which is thought to be riskier, and the type of radiation was different from the X-rays used in modern medical scans. According to a managed-care database, one patient received 341 CT scans over an 18-month period, bringing the radiation exposure to 992.24 millisieverts. Several other patients received more than 100 CT scans.

There's been an explosion in CT scanning in recent years. Scans increased by nearly 50% between 2000 and 2003, when they hit 57 million. The rise comes from rapidly advancing CT technology that gives doctors better, more-detailed information to work with, making the scan widely viewed as one of the most valuable diagnostic tools in the field. What's more, the test is noninvasive and typically doesn't cost anything for insured patients. The test has also become popular as a means for patients to get full-body scans as a check-up.

Now, a range of players in the field are moving to prevent runaway CT scanning, including a large managed-care organization and the nation's largest diagnostics-benefits manager. And General Electric Healthcare has come out with a device that reduces radiation during cardiac CT scans by as much as 70%. "Obviously, the concern is the increased risk related to cancer," says Arl Van Moore, chairman of the American College of Radiology, which is also looking at the issue. Dr. Moore recently appointed an ACR task force to examine the issue of radiation exposure from diagnostic imaging. The group's report and position statement based on its findings is expected to come out next year.

Invented in the 1970s, computed axial tomography scans (called CAT or CT scans) use special X-ray machines to take images of the body from multiple angles and can show various types of tissue with detailed precision. But unlike other kinds of advanced images, such as MRIs and ultrasounds, CT scans take pictures using ionizing radiation.

A full-body CT scan measures an estimated 12 millisieverts to 25 millisieverts. A mammogram measures about .84 millisieverts. We get about 3.6 millisieverts a year from natural sources. A 10-millisievert level is associated with an increased risk of cancer, though health experts debate whether a one-time dose carries different risks from those of cumulative exposure.

Children are at the greatest risk for long-term health problems from radiation because of the damage it wreaks on developing cells. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration put out a notice to health-care professionals emphasizing the need to try to minimize radiation exposure in pediatric patients.

Not everyone in the medical community is embracing the cause. Some feel the risks aren't well-established and that the concern could dissuade patients from getting necessary tests. Reuben Mezrich, professor and chairman at the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Department of Radiology, casts a skeptical eye on the issue, saying there haven't been enough good studies on the risks. He also isn't convinced that radiation accumulates over time, noting that "we're always getting radiated."

Still, the nation's largest diagnostics benefit manager, National Imaging Associates Inc./Magellan Health, is taking steps to rein in CT scanning. In August, NIA started a new procedure with 30 of its clients to flag excessively scanned patients. NIA alerts their doctors and initiates discussions to see if there are other diagnostic options. Also, doctors who call insurance companies for pre-authorizations of patients deemed excessively scanned will need to talk to NIA first.

Company vice president and founder Thomas Dehn, a radiologist, says that the company started developing the program after seeing radiation-exposure levels that were 1,000% higher than medical guidelines, which Dr. Dehn calls "extraordinary, inappropriate and alarming."

At the same time, these Insurance companies won't let patients to undergo MRI because of the cost involved. A move away from CT scans won't necessarily save money. But, a reduction in overall scanning would save payers on insurance costs. Also doctors could instead shift to other technologies such as MRIs, which don't emit ionizing radiation.

Radiation by the numbers:

Type of Procedure and Estimated Dose

Chest X-ray => 0.01-0.1 millisieverts
Mammogram => 0.8 millisieverts
Head CT => 2 millisieverts
Chest CT => 8-10 millisieverts
Abdomen-pelvis => 10 millisieverts
Full body screening => 12-25 millisieverts
World War II Atom Bomb (mean) => 20 millisieverts

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mutual Funds to Buy

I wrote about attractive mutual funds on December 10, 2005. Two of the three funds I mentioned generated excellent return so far.

It's time for one more list of funds. I invested in the following funds, all of them invest in world markets.

FIGRX - Fidelity Intl Discovery
JAOSX - Janus Overseas
JETAX - Julius Baer Intl Equity Fund
MAKOX - Matthews Korea Fund
LZOEX - Lazard Emerging Markets (Be careful with this one, emerging markets may just screw up your portfolio)

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. I write my opinions in this blog, it's not financial advice. Do your research before trading any stock or options. I own all the funds mentioned in this post.

Commercial Real Estate Peaked in U.S.

The commercial real-estate cycle appears to have reached its peak and will begin pulling back in 2007, according to a new survey of industry executives.

The Urban Land Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit planning and research group, and PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed more than 600 developers, investors, brokers, consultants and lenders this summer for an annual report on the industry, dubbed Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2007.

The survey suggests commercial real estate is beginning a return to its norm as an income-producing investment rather than the wildly appreciating asset class it has been this decade. The easy lending of the past several years will tighten next year in part because of worries about the economy, surveyed executives said. Investors will have to turn to asset management and operating performance to raise returns as investment inflows slow because of lower return expectations, respondents added.

The report also says real-estate investment trust stock prices "appear to have more downside risk than upside potential over the short term."

Still, those surveyed expect commercial real-estate cash flow to continue to grow as factors such as reduced vacancies and higher rents keep improving across most property types. One reason: High construction costs are putting a damper on new construction.

While the commercial real-estate market has exhibited some signs of a bubble in recent years -- driven by low interest rates and an influx of investment -- it has differed from the residential market. A key difference is that supply and demand have been more tied to vacancies and rents and not as closely linked to the rising interest rates that have cooled the housing market. Another key difference is that there is no "exotic mortgages" in commercial real estate domain!

The report advises investors to sell marginal properties and hold on to well-performing ones, with an eye to improving their performance in advance of a potential economic downturn. It advises developers to "hunker down," saying most property markets don't need much new space.

A pullback in the galloping commercial real-estate market will raise capitalization rates -- the initial return on investment in the first year -- by as much as 0.7 percentage point in some property types and restrain the increase in property values, the report says. Falling cap rates mean investors are willing to take a lower return for their money. Cap rates are already rising in some areas, especially in lower-quality properties, after dropping between 2.5 and three percentage points to record lows over the past five years. Cap rates vary by property type, but high-income apartments, for instance, averaged a 5.66% cap rate in July, while limited-service hotels brought a 7.93% cap rate.

The property sectors with a "buy" in the report are warehouse, which the executives interviewed said will boom on the East and Gulf Coasts because of overflow import traffic from the West Coast, and moderate-income apartments, especially on the coasts. Retail property fared worse, with executives suggesting consumer spending will be "middling" and advising investors to sell weak properties while holding strong ones.

Those surveyed said Seattle is the best office market to invest in right now, with office rents set to rise and supply tight. The city is also sitting in a prime position to benefit from explosive growth in Asia and has the best potential of any American city to become the next "24-hour" hub like New York or San Francisco, according to the report. The report lists five U.S. cities as "global pathways" with bright futures for real-estate investment: New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington.

Philadelphia and Chicago are ranked among the worst markets for investment in all property types in the survey. Chicago is being dragged down by economic problems, the "Midwest malaise," the report says, while investors question Philadelphia's future as a global city since it lies between New York and Washington.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

RBI raises its main lending rate

Reserve Bank of India did a good thing - It raised short-term lending rate to 7.25% in a cautious move to keep inflation in check.

I personally feel that RBI should boost the rate to atleast 8%. Chidambaram says that there is no inflation, that's a political speech. If you look at the prices in all metro cities, I am not sure how non-IT people afford those kind of sky-high costs. Rental rates in all metro cities are so obscene. I heard about 1000 sq.ft apartment is going for Rs. 25,000/month in Chennai. I am not sure how people can even afford it even if they make one lakh per month. Real estate prices are tripled from last year prices in some areas of Chennai. I can relate this to what happened in Silicon valley just a year ago. Whatever goes up this fast will come down. When it comes down, it's going to be ugly.

Many economists feel that there will be another 0.25% hike in 3 months. If the global situation is stable at that time, RBI may increase the rate to 7.5%. If there is a problem with global economy (Terrorism, Political fallout especially in Thailand, etc.,) RBI may keep the rate untouched.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chennai car accident - CO poisoning

I heard about this freak accident in Chennai. I read the news in Hindu. FYI: Hindu has new service called epaper, that can be accessed from

This incident happened in Chennai on October 28th night. Three software engineers decided to head out in Hyundai Santro Car. They got stuck in G.N. Chetty road, T. Nagar due to heavy rain. They decided to wait for sometime, parked the car, rolled up all the windows, switched on air conditioner and waited...Sometime later, all of them died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Here's a possible reconstruction of the tragedy according to The Hindu.

The air-conditioner is running and set on 'recirculate' - a mode people normally use to prevent the smellier components of urban air pollution from getting into the car. The engine is running to keep the air con functioning.

In the meantime, water is rising below and around the car, and this means the hot exhaust gas, which normally has a larger volume of air to disperse into, is suddenly crowded up against the undersides of the car's floorboards. The situation might be more adverse if the car's exhaust system has a leak somewhere and all emissions are not properly exiting at the tailpipe as they are meant to.

The gases might therefore be building up more heavily than normal under the car and inside the engine bay. And invariably, this gas will get into the car through the tiny access holes present in these regions - the little holes on the floorboard that drain water from inside a car, the innumerable gaps and holes that route wiring, cabling and mechanical controls like the steering column through the engine bulkhead - the wall that separates the engine bay from the passenger cabin. In the meantime, the air-con is steadily recirculating the deadly gases through the cabin of the car - and a silent and deadly killer gas -carbon monoxide - goes to work, poisoning the unwary occupants.

How does CO kill?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is one of the gases emitted by your car's exhaust system. It is completely imperceptible to the human senses, being odourless, colourless, tasteless. And this poison is doubly deadly, as it gets absorbed into the bloodstream quickly - the haemoglobin in blood has a much greater affinity for this gas than oxygen, forming a strong bond that is devastating in nature - it starves organ tissues in the human body of vital oxygen. Symptoms of CO poisoning are things you'd shake off as the result of a stressful, long day at work - headache, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. And then you might decide to sleep it off for a while...