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.