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  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:02 pm on May 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Arbitrage, , bad software, business magazines, , Financial markets, , , healthcare, , , Rich Dad, Soviet Militia, trusted technical co-founder, United States, web professionals, worse run software   

    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.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:15 pm on December 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Almond paste, Almonds, , Carl Steinway, , , , , , Marzipan, , of catching in the Black Sea, pens ala officer, Philippine cuisine, retail store layouts, Sorenson, , , , Steinway Tunnel, Swiss cuisine, Theodor, United States   

    Marzipan 

    When faced with a lot of stress I employ several coping techniques. There’s collecting pens ala officer Sorenson, watching New York’s pigeons(overweight and disheveled they remind me of myself), meditatively looking at cornucopias of goods in various retail store layouts and fixtures, and then there’s food.

    Happiness derived from material things is fleeting, especially in the pursuit of the American Dream. But I grew up in the Soviet Union where the Socialist economy greatly restricted variety and quality of just about everything, and I have a slightly different perspective on materialism.

    My friends who visited Cuba told me that people there are much happier than in the US: they have very little to aspire to in material goods, and thus live a life that is much less busy, and as a result much more relaxed and happy.

    I frequently quote a paragraph from a letter by Carl Steinway to his brother Theodor in Germany:

    “I cannot advise you to come here if you are able, by diligence and thrift, to make a living in Germany. People here have to work harder than abroad, and you get so used to better living that you finally think potato soup tasted better in Germany than the daily roast here.”

    Carl and Theodor are two of the “Sons” in Steinway & Sons. Steinway Tunnel is named after the third one.

    The variety of food that I had access to growing up was not that great, but I certainly had better fruit and vegetables than the majority of Americans have these days. I’ve asked my younger co-workers, and they are sure that strawberries sold in American supermarkets taste like strawberries. It’s a bit of a Matrix moment there (supermarket strawberries absolutely do not taste like real strawberries).

    I had a childhood in which I only experienced hunger when dieting and cold when fishing in bad weather. On the other hand, my grandfather, who went through WWII, remembered the real hunger and the real cold. He was very glad that me and my father never had to experience hunger, and every time I would refuse to eat kasha, he would say – “so, you don’t want to eat kasha that your grandmother made you – what do you expect – marzipan”?

    I would ask him what marzipan was, and he’d say – oh, it’s a very tasty French candy. He must have remembered marzipan from NEP times or maybe from his early childhood before the Revolution.

    I always though that marzipan was something amazing and heavenly, the tastiest treat possible. I was also pretty sure that I’d never taste it. It was the gastronomic equivalent of the “sea rooster” fish (a very rare fish that I dreamt of catching in the Black Sea).

    These days I mutter curse words when I catch “sea roosters” – they are considered a throwback fish in NYC. And marzipan – well, it turned out to be yucky concoction of almond paste and sugar that appears on store shelves around Festivus. I buy it from time to time to remember my grandfather.

    marzipan

    And when I want to taste a tomato or strawberry that tastes good I have to spend a lot of time and money at farmers markets or take a trip to my hometown.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 7:20 am on July 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , IOS, , , Linksys iPhone, , , Steve Job, , United States, ,   

    iphone4 antenna rant 

    There are two types of people in this world: those who say that crushed bedbugs smell like expensive Cognac, and those who say that Cognac smells like bedbugs.

    I really wish the whole Apple antennagate would be over. Because I’m tired of explaining my position on it to everybody who drools over my iphone.

    I have 3 points to make:

    1) The office where I work has super ridiculously terrible ATT reception despite being in direct line of view from a brutalist style building containing ATT switches. So does an underground subway station where I change trains on the way to work. The rest of NYC has simply terrible ATT reception.

    I’ve tried at the office, I’ve tried underground. I’ve tried cupping any which way. I tried moistening my palms. I can’t get to get a reliable bar drop thing. Sometimes, in fact, I got more bars. Oh, and that underground subway station? None of the older iphones ever had reception there.

    This is all clearly a a product of me being a “fanboi”, and being under the heavy influence of Steve Job’s reality distortion field. I think they have mobile generators transmitting that.

    2) Sometimes getting more bars when cupping iphone4 gives me an idea that now it is possible to make a case that will actually boost iphone reception by possibly attaching a yagi or another type of big directional antenna to the case. Maybe even something gigantic, like the apartment tower antenna or one of those huge homemade antennas that I used to make for crystal radios.

    3) Right now I’m vacationing in the Ukraine. Here you can buy a sim card for $1 that gets you a phone number. On every corner there are agents and machines that allow you to refill these sim cards with ridiculously small amounts of money that get you ridiculously cheap minutes and data. There’s no standing in line while ATT employees are chatting / checking their social networks, scratching their asses, etc. There’s no hassle with forms, accounts, etc. You spend a little money, you get your phone to work. Most phones are unlocked. Reception is excellent everywhere. I hear they are working on making iPhone’s mini sims working with iPhones. People are ready to pay just about any price for the 4th iPhone. Apple would do much better with a simple business model: phones for money here first, and then in the US for us, who have to deal with ridiculous contracts and lock-ins. Grandstanding politicians would gain my vote if they did a little trustbusting in the cellular service industry.

     
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