Arbitrage

It boggles my mind to think that I grew up in a country where most private enterpreneurship was a criminal offence, a felony. It was like this: create a business, be scorned by your customers at best, and at worst get caught and go to a labor camp.

There were of course people engaged in small business that escaped persecution. One particular example stuck in my memory: my father once pointed out a disheveled man rooting around in books at our favorite second hand book store. The store accepted books on comission, with the book owner setting the price. The disheveled man, my father explained, did not work anywhere. He made his living from his encyclopedic knowledge of the Soviet book market. He picked underpriced books and relisted them at market prices. I did not know it back then, but this is a very common tactic called “arbitrage”. In the US it is employed by multitudes of people, from library sale scroungers as disheveled as that man, but armed with handheld computers and laser scanners hooked up to Amazon.com, to venture capitalists buying bad software companies from badly run companies and selling them to even worse run software companies at billions in profit.

In the US “Rich Dad, Poort Dad” author is making millions explaining the benefits of enterpreneurship over salaried proffesionalism, and I am in fact workin for not one, but two business magazines: Fast Company and Inc. I spent almost five years here, but it’s almost time for me to go. I did not line up the next job yet, but months ago I told my boss that I was leaving so that he could hire a replacement. My replacement is here, and I’m close to finishing knowledge transfer.

I have a few startup ideas, but what scares me is not the Soviet Militia, but the lack of affordable healthcare and the lack of a trusted technical co-founder. I am mulling taking another corporate job, and luckily Google and its ilk hoovered up web professionals, so the market looks promising.

For months I would tell myself that I would leave when the Freedom Tower would eclipse WTC 7 where I work. I’d say that time is near.

How to Design Logos, Symbols and Icons: 24 Internationally Renowned Studios Reveal How They Develop Trademarks for Print and

This book steps into the studios of top designers as their ideas happen. Case studies trace the evolution of great logos, symbols and icons, illustrating the process with initial roughs and intermediary sketches that lead up to the final designs for companies including Nike and IBM. In addition, this book expands its boundaries to include symbols and icons, two rarely covered yet increasingly vital areas of design. Gregory Thomas is the owner and principal of Gregory Thomas Associates, a Santa Monica-based design consultancy. The award-winning company boosts an international client list that includes CBS, IBM, Levi Strauss & Company, Yale University, and MCA/Universal Pictures.

In Our Minds

Has it been 5 years? Don’t know. Sometimes it feels like it happened last year, sometimes – many years ago, and sometimes – like it never happened at all. My mind often fills the horrible void in the skyline with two ghostly towers and that brings me some comfort. I really can’t believe that the towers, and along with them somewhat simpler times are gone. To some images of the Twins might be unsettling, but I treasure them.

A few days ago I was leafing through my old issues of Silicon Alley Reporter, Jason McCabe Calacanis’ failed dot com rah-rah magazine. Almost every single issue carried this ad by the Alliance for Downtown New York.

The alliance changed it’s logo, like so many other companies.

I think that a logo redesign is the same thing as being ashamed of the past. I salute every company that kept the original logo. It does not really matter what happened. The World Trade Center will keep standing, even if only in our minds.

This, of course, is only my opinion. Let me know what you would have done by voting in my latest poll.

More Investment Strategery Talk With Deadprogrammer

Two years ago I wrote about my inept investments and got derisively laughed at by my longtime virtual friend Andrew. “He heh” – he went – “PALM, HAND. You should have tried FOOT and LEG”. Indeed , Foothill Independent Bank and Leggett Platt Inc performed better than Handspring and Palm Inc (they merged back together now).

After the Internet Bubble my investment strategy closely followed the baseline advice of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street“: I maxed out my 401K with a no load S&P500 equivalent index and the like. Later I scraped together the remnants from my old non-401K investment accounts, added some money and since I seem to always pick wrong body parts to invest in, asked smartass Andrew what to buy. His recommendations were AMLN and AMGN.

For the most of the next year Amylin Pharmaceuticals was not doing so hot most of the year, and I got to heckle Andrew, saying that even his stock mojo could not overcome my bad luck investment voodoo. Yesterday Amylin popped up 28% because “Phase II clinical trials for a sustained-release formulation of Byetta showed the drug, when taken at the highest dose, could help type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar levels while losing weight“.

Overall, I am up about 30-35% for the year. I never did buy that La Marzocco, settling for a very nice Reneka Techno. La Marzocco is old news anyway, these days the object of my desire is a Syneso Cyncra. If the things go this way further, maybe some day I’ll buy one.


Ad:
Don’t even think about investing without reading “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”.

“Liar’s Poker” and “Ugly Americans” won’t teach you much about investment, but will teach you a lot about traders. Both are highly entertaining and very readable, real thrillers about BSDs. And there’s nothing “free” about them.

Weyco And Smell The Smoke

From The Daily Free Press:
“… Okemos-based Weyco Inc., instituted a no-smoking policy in 2003, purportedly to save on the cost of health care benefits for its employees. The policy forbids employees from smoking both in the workplace, and at home. Weyco offered help to employees trying to quit and has said that 14 of its estimated 20 employees who smoked kicked the habit before the policy went into effect.”

Somehow I imagine the “help” that this company provided exactly as described in Stephen King’s short story “Quitters Inc.” that later became a part of the movie “Cat’s Eye“:

First offense – your wife gets some electric shock treatment. Second offense – you get one. Third offense – you get it together. Fourth – your kid gets beaten. And so forth.

And after you stop smoking you get the bill for 5000.50.

Quitters Inc is conviniently located right next to the United Nations at 237 East 46th Street, by the way. Don’t forget to ask them about their weight loss plan.

I bet once Weyco is done with the smokers they’ll go after the fat people.

Are You Proud of Your Workplace?

I like decorated workplaces. And I don’t mean a cube with a swimsuit calendar and “motivational” posters from http://www.motivational-posters-animal-posters-sunset-beach-photos.com/ (that’s a real address too). I don’t like Despair, Inc Demotivators TM, although I wish I came up with that idea myself. It’s a big business, as illustrated by this spooky picture of their warehouse:

What I do like, is when an office has some artifact or artifacts that everybody is extremely proud of. For instance in Boston office of defunct company iXL they had an Aibo dog (the expensive first version), which they’ve got for creating http://www.aibo.com. I worked in New York office of iXl.

A company that I worship, iDEO, has an office which has the ultimate office decoration. Some engineers went to the airplane scrap yard and brought back a huge WWII bomber wing, which they polished and hung above a meeting room.

Art. Lebedev Studio, a company, which I think will become Russia’s iDEO, and which I also worship, has the coolest collection of old technology

Fog Creek Software (yeah, I worship a lot of companies) strives to provide the best working enviroment possible. From their website: ” … That means the nicest work environment we can get. For now, that means an historic brownstone in an exciting Manhattan neighborhood full of caf├ęs, bookstores, ethnic restaurants, movie theatres, and a rather disproportionate number of Persian rug shops. We have a real garden out back, a full kitchen, a pinball machine, and natural light… ” And that is even more amazing than an airplane wing.

Me? Well, I have a small collection of old vacuum tubes (or valves as Brits call them) in my cube. But I think a nice jet fighter’s helmet and a nice jet instrument panel from eBay’s fine selection would be much cooler.

Ok, I am off to install a 120 gig drive (a bargain at $130) in my Tivo. Wish me luck.