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Archive for May, 2012

Taking the adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” swiftly to heart, I am here to attempt once again to create a meme.

Attempt Number One, my homage to the man who coined the word “meme”, can be found here.

This post is Attempt Number Two.

What makes a good meme?

I have no stinking idea.

So instead I have simply created my own character, the BardShark

BardShark take on Hamlet

BardShark sez…

When this meme-character hits it big, where do I go to turn this icon into a T-shirt.

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Over the weekend, I and my two boys were part of the global audience that went to see the Will Smith – Tommy Lee Jones – Josh Brolin movie Men in Black 3.

Considering the amount of decent coverage by critics (as can be seen here), I doubt Barry Sonnenfeld, et.al., need my review, but I wanted to share with you how I knew I enjoyed this movie…which I did.

Before entering the theater, and so as to avoid the exorbitant cost of having to dip into my children’s college fund to buy candy, I brought in (okay, technically, smuggled in) my own favorite brand. That would be Hot Tamales in case you ever feel like sending me a sweet gift.

So how do I know that I thoroughly enjoyed the third installment of the Men in Black franchise?

Because when the end of the movie arrived and the credits rolled, I had not even opened my box of cinnamon delights. That’s how engrossed I was with the time travelling adventures of Will Smith’s Agent J.

So, in the N.Mannski rating scheme of things, Men in Black 3 receives 0 boxes…which is high praise indeed.

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The weekly photo challenge from WordPress is on the theme of summer.

A little background for today’s pictorial offering.

I am originally from Southern California and as such spent many a summer day at the “Happiest Place on Earth”, also known as Disneyland, which was only minutes from my childhood home.

Nearly fourteen years ago, I moved to Virginia, but every summer the family and I travel back to the Golden State to visit my parents and other relatives.

Part of the tradition of our holiday to reconnect with the Mannski Family is our annual trip to Disneyland. My trio of children have a wonderful time spending the day with their grandparents and enjoying all the rides. I have a great time telling my kids stories about what Disneyland used to be like in the 1970s and 1980s and trying to convince them that there is indeed a basketball court atop the Matterhorn.

Sadly, this year, as we are across the Pond, our summer visit to the House of Mouse in Anaheim will not occur.

Summer, to me, is Disneyland and so if I can’t make it there this year, this photo will have to do for me and my summer memories.

Disneyland at dusk

Disneyland at dusk

And, no, before you ask, the facility here will not satisfy me.

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Now, the conclusion of my series regarding the seven deadly sins. The remaining six postings can be found here in the forms of anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, and pride.

The last of the sinful septet is sloth. For this final post, I offer the following photo, which I cribbed from another site.

Sloth

Sloth

Why take a photo from another site? Because I’m lazy.

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As the cliché goes, when it rains, it pours. So with that in mind, here is my second consecutive posting about a veridiction (my name for the process of verifying predictions), so here goes.

On the January 20, 2012, edition of the podcast for the radio program Marketplace, one of the guests was Felix Salmon of Reuters.

In that episode, Mr. Salmon made the prediction that “Greece is going to default on March 20…”

The debt-ridden country had a big bill due (about 350 billion euros) and Mr. Salmon was going out on the prediction limb to say that Athens would default. According to Investopedia, the definition of a default as a “…failure on the repayment of a county’s government debts.”

To me, a default means that the person, or country, that owes the debt does not pay the debt back.

So, what happened when the middle of March rolled around?

This article from The Economist has all the details, but suffice it to say that an agreement was hammered out between those that owed the money (i.e., Greece) and those to whom the money was owed to (i.e., bondholders). Long story short, the bondholders agreed (or, more technically, were forced to agree) to turn in their bonds and, in exchange, they received new bonds from Athens.

Technically, Mr. Salmon’s prediction fell short as Greece did not default on the debt. They did fail to pay what they owed because they created a new agreement.

However, there is the “spirit of the law” and the “letter of the law”. While Greece managed to avoid a default on 3/20 by the “letter of the law”, they certainly defied the “spirit” of what a default is as it (in the words of The Economist article) “…invoked a recently enacted law that bound all private bondholders to the bond-swap if more than two-thirds of them consented to it.”

Must be nice to have a legislative body at your side to help you write down the red ink. I wish I could do that when my credit card bill comes due.

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It’s been over a month since I have dug into my circular file labelled “Veridiction” (which is my name for the practice of verifying predictions) and so I feel overdue.

Following on the heels of my posts of last week concerning the social networking phenomenon that is Facebook (see here and here)

On Sunday, Reuters ran a story stating that Barron’s was predicting that shares of Facebook could drop below its initial offering price of $38 per share.

Now, I have had my own issues with media entities covering their crystal balls under the shrouds of lazy words like “could”, “may”, and “perhaps”, but I’ll let those issues slide for this posting.

Barron’s went on a limb saying that QRS could happen so let’s give credit where ’tis due because QRS did indeed happen.

Shares of Facebook changed their status to “Under IPO Value” as the stock did dip below its flotation price and ended Monday at $34.03.

Barron’s makes the prediction over the weekend…and it is verified the next day. Nice job.

But did Barron’s even have a guess about Mark Zuckerberg’s surprise wedding? Now, that would have been a prediction worth posting on one’s Wall.

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WordPress has announced its latest theme for their Weekly Photo Challenge and that theme is “hands“.

I have spoken of my middle child, Jared, before. Examples include when I have compared him to a film industry expert, skateboarder Tony Hawk, and to a pedantic.

While he is many things, he is not photogenic and does not like it when I take photos of him.

Middle Son being shy

Not a High-Five

This attitude of his makes creating holiday photos less than a snap.

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If this week’s photo themed challenge from Photo Friday had a soundtrack, it would include “These Boots Were Made For Walking” and “Walk This Way”.

My offering for today comes via a friend and a holiday snapshot he sent to me to make me jealous. She knows one of the places I want to visit before I pass on is the Emerald Isle of Ireland.

So, when she travelled to Dublin in mid-2010, she sent me a series of photographs to show me what I was missing.

One of those pictures is below and it shows people walking along what I imagine to be a boardwalk by a river or bay. Note the yellow mooring pylons in the bottom right corner of the shot.

Dublin

On the boardwalk

However, what I found interesting, in a giggly sort of way, was the road sign in the center of the picture warning motorists of the water hazard that awaits them if they are not careful.

Dublin road sign

Okay, who’s the U-boat commander?

I guess, after a few pints, if you failed to heed that sign, you would be walking home.

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Back in the middle of 2000, I started work as a software tester at a startup information technology company (then again, who wasn’t working for a startup back during the time of dotcom bubble?). This was the type of company that was creating a software application from scratch. We had no customers, but we had a collection of venture capitalist folk who consistently tossed money at us at certain intervals.

In late 2001/early 2002, the executives of our company offered its employees the following deal. The financial gurus made the proposal that we could buy stock in the company at a low price with the promise that when the company went public at its initial public offering (IPO), we could then sell those shares of stock. It was highly hinted that the price at IPO would be much higher than the price we were being offered.

This was near the end of the dotcom bubble, but there was still plenty of buzz around the software world of startup employees making hand over fist once their companies had their IPOs so several of us at this company looked favorably upon this transaction.

I’m not a financial genius by any stretch of the imagination, so I went to a family friend who is.

When I spelled out the nature of the transaction to our monetary wizard, he asked me what the financial state of the company was. I told him that I had no idea. He said I should find out, but he then gave me some advice that I have kept in my back pocket all this time. He said I needed to be leery as to why my company needed our money so quickly. Without knowing the company’s finances, he thought it odd that they were coming to its employees for an infusion of cash.

The next week, I tried unsuccessfully to discover how well the company’s balance sheet was doing. At first, I received some mild hedging and “We’ll get back to you” comments. At the end of the week, when I was told in no uncertain (albeit friendly) terms that the assets and liabilities of our company was none of my business and outside of my job’s responsibilities, I decided not to buy any stock in the business that employed me.

In June of 2002, I, along with a quarter of the staff, were laid off because of the poor financial situation of the company. Our VC angels had grown tired of throwing good money after bad and demanded changes.

To me, the poor monetary showing of our company was why they needed our money. To this day, I have remembered my friend’s advice and have always looked askance at those business that have the cup out.

That is why my SomethingAskewDetector (patent pending) went up when I read that Facebook has opened an app store and unveiled a new program to allow its users to pay a nominal fee to have their posts receive precedence.

On the heels of its IPO, Facebook has come up with (at least) a pair of programs in an attempt to increase their revenue.

In addition, mere days before shares of this social networking company go up for sale, Facebook announces that it is both elevating its target price for its shares from $28-$35 to $34-$38 and increasing the number of shares that will be made available for sale to investors. Both moves are expected to raise the total amount of money to be earned by Facebook in its IPO.

The cup is out and I wonder “Why”?

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After dealing with anger, envy, gluttony, greed, and lust, there are only two more of the seven deadly sins for me to opine about.

Today’s installment is all about pride.

This posting is not about the type of pride that goeth before a fall (as says Aesop and the Bible) or the type of pride that is a group of lions or even the Pride that is the title of a U2 song.

No, this posting is about that flavor of pride known as pride of ownership.

More specifically, I am taking about the ownership of stocks. Stocks, as in shares given out by a business to raise money in exchange for partial ownership of that company, are a mainstay of financial reporting as the daily fluctuations of stock indexes (e.g., Dow Jones, NASDAQ, S&P 500) are commented on. In addition, the share price of individual stocks are also reported on to show how well or not well a business is doing.

With the news all a-twitter about the upcoming initial public offering (or IPO) of stock by Facebook, people may be clamoring to attempt to buy Facebook stock to make money.

But is this even a good idea?

Looking at some of the most recent tech-world IPOs, the answer is mixed.

Groupon, that company that offers daily discounts, had their IPO late last year and shares of their company were initially offered at $20. The current stock price for this company is now around the $13 range. That’s almost a fifty percent drop.

LinkedIn, the networking on-line site, had its IPO almost a year ago and it offered its shares for $45. Now, one share of the company is in the $114 range. That’s more than a doubling of the IPO price.

The gaming company that brought you FarmVille, Zynga, had its IPO in December offering up owner certificates for $10 a pop. Almost half a year later, the stock hovers in the single digits range.

The above to me says that IPO does not equal instant riches.

So, later this week, you can take your chance and try and buy Facebook stock and be proud of your new investment.

You can be proud of your new certificate of ownership, but if your pride also wants to see a double-digit increase in its price before you sell, just remember what goes before a fall.

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