l33tminion: (L33t)
My mom was in town this weekend, due to a lucky confluence of last-minute cheap flights plus both of her new grand-nieces in the same place. And me and Julie, too! Really enjoyed the visit. Was really excited to meet Stella (David and Abby's new daughter, one of my new little cousins). Excited enough to distract me from properly catching up with my older cousins. Sorry, you guys! But I think I'll see them at an extended-family Hanukkah party tomorrow.

Other things to relate:

My PS3 broke. I'm getting it repaired.

Postmates (yet another "the Uber of X" business, this time the X is delivery) is pretty nifty.

For Xave's tabletop roleplaying group, Andrew is running a round of My Life with Master, which casts the players in the role of villainous minions (like Renfield to Dracula or Igor to Frankenstein).

I'm going to the Olin Fall Expo tomorrow as a visitor from Google! First time I've attended that as a guest, so I'm excited.

Work was pretty productive this week. I'm looking forward to vacation.

Wash Cycle

Dec. 10th, 2014 12:03 am
l33tminion: (L33t)
Crazy rain today.

There was a $50 coupon for Yelp Elite members for Washio, a new dry cleaning / laundry delivery service. The price wasn't too bad for door-to-door service, and the service was really good and very convenient. The offer came at just the right time because I had several loads of laundry and some dry cleaning queued up (winter weather has arrived for real, and it's going to get really cold in no time, so this is the last chance to bring things out of storage). They picked up Saturday morning and delivered today. I wouldn't want to replace my every-day laundry with that (it's not enough trouble to be worth the wait and expense), but it seems good for spring-cleaning sorts of laundry chores and it's a good option for dry cleaning (especially for those heavier items), since that can be annoying to lug around without a car.

I'm making some more beer bread for Julie's office party. I made some last weekend, too.
l33tminion: (L33t)
It seems the heart of Inman Square (that is, the block of Cambridge St. between Inman St. and Prospect St.) is in a major transitional phase. There are more closed shops than I've seen since I moved in. Inman Square Supermarket (a small convenience/grocery store) is now gone. The Cambridge Bukowski is closed for renovations (supposedly reopening in the fall, but doesn't look ready yet). Haveli (an Indian restaurant) is gone, to be replaced by Hops N Scotch (but that doesn't look like it will be opening soon). Christina's Spice Shop is closed in prep for a move further up Cambridge Street.

It seems like economic growth pains as opposed to economic decline, but it still looks like a painful transition.
l33tminion: (Jon Stewart)
Here's a local news story I neglected to mention here earlier:

A local supermarket renowned for it's big crowds and cheap produce is in turmoil after the former CEO was ousted. The two main investors are cousins and their families, Arthur T. Demoulas (the former CEO) and Arthur S. Demoulas. After long-standing conflicts, the board ejected ATD and named James Gooch (a former president at RadioShack) and Felicia Thornton as co-CEOs. The Arthur S. side seems to be looking to increase shareholder dividends and possibly sell off the business to private equity. Other big supermarket chains in the area have significantly higher prices and worse employee compensation, so it doesn't take a genius to predict the planned new course for the company.

The result: Wildcat strikes and massive employee protests. Enough disruption to the warehouses to cause truckloads of spoilage and empty shelves in the stores (which was a bizarre sight to see there). Associates putting up protest signs in the store and picketing on their off-hours. Organizers fired, threats of mass firings. Counter-threats from pretty much every store manager of mass resignations. Sole demand of "return the old CEO". Many customers boycotting, others turning away due to the disruption in service. The whole massive supermarket chain wrecked in the space of a few weeks.

ATD has offered to buy out the other shareholders, but the board is considering other bids, and the ASD faction would have to accept the offer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sell out to some big chain anyways. Sack the workers and sell the buildings to some other supermarket chain for a fraction of their previous value. Livelihoods wrecked and a successful business razed because owning half of a $3B enterprise wasn't enough to assuage ASD's greed.

More here, here, and here.
l33tminion: (L33t)
Work is busy, and much of my free time is still occupied with wedding chores. I figure if I make good progress in the next few months, wedding chores will have taken only a year total.

The festival that Pandemonium Books ran last weekend was quite fun.

Thank you notes are taking a while, but with steady progress I hope to have them done (or all but done) before Thanksgiving. I've selected, organized, and archived wedding photos, and they're now all up here.

I'm trying to up my game at work. I'm working on a 20% project where I can do some pair programming with Xave, figuring out how to improve open-source tools my team uses, trying to contribute more to documentation and process improvements, and doing more studying (I joined a programming reading group at work and applied some training budget to books; my office has a bookshelf now!).

Bitcoin is booming again, the perpetual weird technology / finance story of the year.

Twitter had its IPO, and sure is worth a lot for a company that doesn't make any money.

Fall scenery is beautiful, but the weather has turned suddenly cold after being gloriously unseasonable for a bit.

It seems everyone I know is still getting sick. This year seems nearly as bad as last, sickness-wise.

Julie's mom is in town this weekend for a visit. It's great to see her again. We all enjoyed happy-hour appetizers at The Cheesecake Factory, I finally tried their avocado eggrolls (as good as I'd hoped!). Hopefully colds will not interfere too much with the weekend's plans.
l33tminion: (Overwork)
Fitness: Workouts continue apace. Trying to watch my diet a bit more, despite all the opportunities for delicious brunch.

In related news, props to Newton Running for their innovative shoe design. I bought a pair of the Sir Isaac (Neutral Guidance Trainers), in hopes of strengthening my foot for more minimal shoes (as opposed to my previous "ludicrous amounts of arch support" design). Very interesting shoe; odd but actually quite a bit more comfortable on the ankles and knees when running, but more tiring across the sole of the foot in general. Forces a better form while running, has me adjusting my form on balance exercises and lunges in a good way (less leaning on my shoe). May have my feet a little more tired at the end of the day than previous, but overall seems good so far.

ComplexMeme: Trying to post more things at my other blog. A little bit about the movie The Interrupters, and some thoughts on the Netflix split (unpleasant for customers in the short run, and maybe the long, but certainly an interesting business case-study).

Politics: The remaining two of the Americans arrested in Iran while trying to hike in Iraq were released this week after the nation of Oman paid $1M in bail. What a bizarre story. Iran essentially kidnaps American hikers in an entirely different country after luring them over an unmarked border, overtly based on accusations of espionage but covertly (evidently) just an old fashioned kidnap-for-ransom scheme (which makes me wonder just where that "bail" is going?). One is released on "bail" pre-trial, her failure to show up for the trial is undoubtedly used to help convict the other two. The others are actually sentenced to eight years in jail, but then allowed to be "released on bail" as a "humanitarian gesture". The US, meanwhile, saves face by refusing to pay, but convinces Oman to pay somehow as a "humanitarian gesture" of their own. Don't know what the US government did to get the government of Oman to pony up the money, but that is undoubtedly coming soon to a WikiLeaks near you.

Don't Ask Don't Tell (a.k.a. the "let's fire Arabic translators for no good reason during a counter-insurgency effort in the middle east" policy) has finally been repealed for good. DADT was an embarrassing and dumb compromise that allegedly improved a worse embarrassing and dumb policy. But hey, I guess that compromise worked, in a sense. Good riddance.

Troy Anthony Davis was executed yesterday after final appeals failed. I have little to say about the case that hasn't already been said. If I was required to put money on it, I'd say the guy was innocent, but I cannot claim to have a sufficient understanding of the evidence of the case. However, I will say that while I understand why the criminal appeals standard is higher than the criminal trial standard, it would be nice if "beyond a shadow of a doubt" (at the very least) was applied to the approval of executions.

Games: Finished two video games recently.

The first, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a worthy prequel to the original. It's fun, and it captures the setting very well. It has somewhat less depth than the original, but far more polish. The stealth/cover system leads to interesting and suspenseful scenes, and there really are multiple valid solutions to most of the game's challenges. The difficulty curve is great, if you remember you're not playing a "standard" modern shooter, your character seems powerful but not invincible. Get the jump on a guard (or a group of guards, with careful planning) and they're doomed, run out into the middle of a room of foes with guns and they will swiftly turn you into cyborg swiss cheese. The choices of which mechanics to change relative to the original were smartly made (replacing a complex per-body-part health system and medkits with one total and regeneration was good overall in my view, inventory management is a bit easier, and replacing a "plug it in and wait" hacking mechanic with a rather clever mini-game). A few aspects are off: Boss battles are either way too hard or way too easy depending on weapons/tactics, the ending is a little clumsy, and the balancing/regeneration for limited-use special abilities are not quite right. Still, if you liked the original (or if you like shooter/RPGs or cyberpunk scifi) in general, you'll probably like this one.

The second, Bastion is a fun action/RPG game, with beautiful and surreal aesthetics, amazing music, fun, challenging, and suspenseful gameplay, good balance, and an interesting, well written, and well-programmed narration style. It's an excellent example of a game that tells a story in a way that's predominantly storytelling through gameplay (as opposed to "accompanied by"). If you want a great (and great as a game) example of "games as high art" that is not (and does not have the typical flaws of) "an art game", this is it. Seriously, this is not only one of the best games of this year (if not the best), but goes on my list of "best games of all time". If you like adventure/RPGs, you should play it. If you are interested in games, art, or storytelling in general, you should at least watch someone play it for a while. The soundtrack also stands on its own, this has been running through my head all week.
l33tminion: (Default)
Tailor from Monday: My old suit will not fit anymore and is beyond salvage (for me, anyways), so donated to charity.

Tuesday: Snow, meeting Reddit people, and more snow.

Today: More snow!

In other news, OKCupid is doomed, it's been acquired by Match.com. An old OKTrends blog post that brilliantly explains why Match.com is crap has been surreptitiously taken down.
l33tminion: (Error)
Open Source Software:

Went to the Olin Etherpad FAD this last weekend. (Etherpad being a popular piece of open-source collaborative document-editing software, FAD being a "Fedora Activity Day", a hackathon.) Was good, and I can increase the number of open-source projects I've added useful work to by one. Etherpad's code is a mess, though.

Ubuntu 10.10 ("Maverick Meerkat") was released on 10/10. Upgraded my home computer with no problems, upgrading my work machine now.

OpenOffice developers, not willing to take Oracle's (mis)management of the project have forked it, taking the source code and founding LibreOffice. While the process is not quite complete, I think I'll be recommending that over the old OpenOffice.org in the near future.

Open-source Facebook competitor Diaspora put out their first alpha release, demonstrating that when it comes to security, they're completely unprepared.

Finally, here's a brief post on why some of the most successful Linux-based operating systems don't mention Linux in their marketing copy.

Toxic Mudslide in Hungary:

On October 4, a reservoir containing ~700,000 cubic meters of toxic alumina sludge burst in Hungary, killing eight, injuring 123, destroying towns, and threatening local waterways. Photos here. On October 7, the sludge reached the Danube river.

A Bit of Politics:

President Obama vetoed an act requiring state and federal courts to accept notarizations done outside of their jurisdiction, due to concerns that this would facilitate foreclosures based on fraudulent mortgage papers. Several major banks have halted foreclosures in the 23 states that require some judicial process for foreclosures. Last Friday, Bank of America halted all foreclosures, they have since been joined by Goldman Sachs.

Worth watching: Stephen Colbert's in-character testimony to a congressional committee on immigrant labor. Colbert was asked to testify because he was one of the few people to participate in the United Farm Workers "Take Our Jobs" campaign.

Here's a post on the amount of corporate money being spent in the 2010 election in the wake of the Citizen's United case. I still don't think we'll see the whole impact of that case until 2012,

Finally, a post pointing out that the Republican opposition to healthcare reform basically advocates the same thing as the bill that was actually passed.

Other:

Why Groupon may be a terrible deal for small-business owners.

Two videos: Out of Sight (an animated short) and a dance from Genki Sudo (they're odd).

A list of the best Sunday brunch places near Boston, according to followers of BostonTweet.
l33tminion: (Slacker Revolt)
The ITA acquisition has entered the "second request" phase, which means the DOJ is asking for more documents for their investigation of the likely effects of the merger on the competitive environment.

Here's a short talk about how happiness works. Among other things, having the option to go back on a past choice consistently makes people less happy.

Victorian BMX. Death on a bicycle!

An essay on Omelas.

The National Inflation Association defends their predictions against the question of Japan. Why did Japan not face hyperinflation in the face of a huge debt-to-GDP ratio and ultra-low-interest loans?

An Overthinking It post on Old Spice ads, Norse gods, and the end of the world. Especially awesome because it discusses one of the better bits of futurism from Infinite Jest, about the end of television advertising.

Speaking of futurism, it's pretty amazing how much Arthur C. Clark got right, he pretty much called the rise of satellite television, GPS, and global cell-phone networks in a letter written in 1956.

Here's one on a summer camp based on Greek mythology as told by Rick Riordan. I was going to say I posted this for Melissa, but I realized I'd emailed it to her ages ago.

Philosophical Zombies: The Movie.

A video on racism and rhetoric.


Finally, to clear your brain, a few bonuses: A visualization of my foursquare checkins. And this mashup.
l33tminion: (Default)
ITA's company dinner cruise was nice and relaxing.

The vegetarian tasting menu at Oleana is amazing.

The movie Primer is amazing if you love time travel stories and being confused. Which I do, apparently.

Ames is still awesome.

My first batch of beer (which I'm helping ODan and EHawk make) seems promising, and is now in bottles. Will be carbonated and done in two weeks or so.

We might have a new housemate for the end of the month, fingers crossed.

Bouldering after a few weeks off is a pain (specifically, in the hands), but I was able to pull myself up a v0 (and almost a v1) after much effort.

A non-crackpot published a paper allegedly proving P!=NP. It's interesting, but still probably not correct.

Don't know what's up with this story, about Google being in back-room anti-net-neutrality talks with Verizon. What the hell, Google? I hope they're up to something clever...

Ted Stevens is feared dead in a plane crash. If it's any comfort, he died doing what he loved.

Bank of America inadvertently charged me for someone else's check. I talked to online support, who told me to call check fraud (not 24/7), who (after determining the cause of the error) referred me to standard customer service, who pushed the issue to their error resolution department and told me to wait two days. It's a good thing the check didn't bounce (and that I had enough to not inadvertently overdraw on something else as a result). Still, I feel like the money should be restored to my account as soon as the error is confirmed, I shouldn't have to wait while they sort the rest of it out.

Bookstarter

Jun. 8th, 2010 04:13 pm
l33tminion: (Default)
Kickstarter is pretty cool. It's a site for the distributed financing of small projects. Pledges are collected if and only if the project is fully funded, so there's less risk of committing money to a project that will never have enough to get off the ground. The project creators can also specify different rewards for different levels of support.

Two of my favorite podcasters are using the site to get off the ground with self-publishing, so I encourage you to check out (and fund) their projects:

Douglas Lain of the Diet Soap Podcast is working on a book titled Pick Your Battle - Foraging as Revolutionary Self-Help, a self-help guide for the urban forager.

[livejournal.com profile] kmo of the C-Realm Podcast is working on a book titled Conversations on Collapse, a collection of interviews from the podcast.
l33tminion: (Default)
A massive oil-slick is still spreading from a April 21 oil-rig explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon platform and left 11 missing, presumed dead. Early attempts to seal the well failed, as did early attempts to contain the spill within a reasonable area. The next step is to try to burn off the oil before it makes landfall, which would be even more of an ecological disaster. I assume all the other oil infrastructure in the spill area further complicates that process. There may also be some interesting political implications for this disaster, with regard to proposed expansions of offshore drilling.

In somewhat more optimistic (and local!) offshore energy news, Cape Wind has finally been approved. Awesome!

Tech-blog Gizmodo has found themselves in hot water since they leaked info about Apple's new iPhone prototype, which they acquired for $5k from a guy who picked up the phone in a bar, where it was lost by an Apple employee. Gizmodo probably crossed the line on that one, they almost certainly violated CA's trade secrets law. The finder of the phone is probably guilty of misappropriating lost property for selling the phone instead of turning it over to police after efforts to return it to its rightful owner. If the finder didn't make a reasonable effort to return it, that upgrades the charge to theft and puts Gizmodo on the hook for receiving stolen property (again, attempts to plead ignorance will probably fall flat given Gizmodo's other actions). It's those latter criminal charges that got the police involved, raiding a Gizmodo editor's house and tracking down the suspected phone thief. Gizmodo complains that this violates shield laws protecting journalist sources, legal opinions are divided.

In world poverty news: Haiti has returned to a state of desperation as the post-quake aid fades out (especially for those in villages too small for NGO notice). And Niger is experiencing famine due to drought, with total crop failure in some regions.

In Arizona, a new anti-illegal-immigrant law requires the police to enforce federal immigration law and requires them to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant. If such a person can't immediately present papers, the law requires that they be detained and fined. That is, aside from basically mandating racial profiling, the law requires citizens to carry proof of citizenship... but only if their skin is of middling hue. Even Karl Rove thinks the law is dumb, and it's not hard to see why, the Republicans will have a hard time appealing to otherwise conservative Hispanic voters with an immigration policy of "papers, please".
l33tminion: (Default)
Air travel news this week has been heavily disrupted by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. (Best reaction to that so far, and best response by stranded travelers.) As of today, the ash cloud is still causing trouble, though most countries have reopened their airspace. Previous eruptions in the last 2000 years have all been followed shortly after by an eruption of the neighboring Katla, an even bigger volcano. That would be bad news for the airline industry, to say the least.

Roger Ebert created a stir by writing a post arguing that videogames can never be art. (By "art" he seems to mean something like "high art" or "good art", though he seems to imply that it's about more than his personal taste.) Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku pointed out the obvious with eloquence, that Ebert is hopelessly inadequate as a critic of videogames. Mike Thomsen of IGN provides a brilliant answer to why the question is important, if video game fans, critics, or creators bought Ebert's argument, they would be intellectually impoverished when it comes to thinking about games. Tycho and Gabe were eventually compelled to comment, but seemed to decide that Ebert wasn't even worth a solid rhetorical crushing. Speaking of games and art, here's one recent title that you should be aware of.

Facebook announced new features which will bring their site to the rest of the internet (moreso than previous). Among them, easy ways to update your profile (to put more data in the hands of advertisers) and a "Login with Facebook" box that automatically shows users which of their friends are already using the site in question (bringing the forces of social obligation that make a terrible game like Farmville to bear on everything on the internet). Speaking of Farmville, the intersection of game design and marketing is indeed pretty scary, I think Jesse Schell is right to say that hasn't even begun to be explored. And Facebook is at the center of that. They really should be the one company Google is afraid of.

Twitter announced the addition of annotations for tweets, which will be what client developers make of it. The clear thing is that the future of Twitter has little to do with SMS and everything to do with mobile computing devices. (140 characters will be "length of a tweet" long after SMS is forgotten, probably.) Speaking of Twitter, Google's Follow Finder for Twitter is quite useful.

Various people are angry at the iPad's crazy terms of use for developers, which specify the language that apps must be "originally written in" (presumably to try to discourage automated porting, or to force people to use just Apple's suite of tools?), in addition to the people angry that the iPad hardware is closed. Brett McLaughlin argues that the iPad being closed isn't a big deal because it's not that hard to hack, missing the rather significant fact that doing so is now a felony due to the DMCA. Personally, I don't want an iPad that much, but I'm looking forward to the competition.

A few bonus links:
l33tminion: (Neobama)
The Senate healthcare reform bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is not much, but it's certainly not nothing:
Here are ten benefits which come online within six months of the President's signature on the health care bill:
  1. Adult children may remain as dependents on their parents’ policy until their 27th birthday
  2. Children under age 19 may not be excluded for pre-existing conditions
  3. No more lifetime or annual caps on coverage
  4. Free preventative care for all
  5. Adults with pre-existing conditions may buy into a national high-risk pool until the exchanges come online. While these will not be cheap, they’re still better than total exclusion and get some benefit from a wider pool of insureds.
  6. Small businesses will be entitled to a tax credit for 2009 and 2010, which could be as much as 50% of what they pay for employees’ health insurance.
  7. The “donut hole” closes for Medicare patients, making prescription medications more affordable for seniors.
  8. Requirement that all insurers must post their balance sheets on the Internet and fully disclose administrative costs, executive compensation packages, and benefit payments.
  9. Authorizes early funding of community health centers in all 50 states (Bernie Sanders’ amendment). Community health centers provide primary, dental and vision services to people in the community, based on a sliding scale for payment according to ability to pay
  10. AND no more rescissions. Effective immediately, you can't lose your insurance because you get sick.
It's not a very liberal bill. It's less significant than the reforms Nixon tried to pass. It's about the same as a bill the Republicans tried to pass in 1993. On the other hand, it is a meaningful improvement, it's likely to last, it's probably a political win for Obama and a loss for conservatives, and it's amusing watching the teabag crowd freak out about how American medicine has been 100% socialized forever (also, the debate in the House before the measures paints a very evocative picture of Republican obstructionism).

(For an interesting discussion of the economics involved, I strongly recommend you watch this.)

Tennessee is trying to pass a bill saying "we can ignore that federal law". Didn't someone try that before?

In unrelated but still quite political news, Google closed Google China today, redirecting all traffic to Google Hong Kong. The Chinese government has yet to block Google entirely, but we'll see (current status). I'd say I agree this is not motivated by short-term business considerations. Rather, the cyber-attack provided the impetus for the "seriously, don't be evil" faction to defeat the "work with them for the greater overall good" faction within Google. I think it probable that Google realized that it would be easier to get out now with the attack as justification than to wait until they have more market share in China and the Chinese government decides that censoring search results was just the start of the conditions for doing business in China.

Evoke!

Mar. 4th, 2010 07:59 pm
l33tminion: (Do Something!)
Hey, that ARG (TRG?) I mentioned started! I've never participated in something like that, though I found some of the previous instances of such games interesting. So I'm going to keep up with this one. At the very least, should make for some interesting blogging.
l33tminion: (Yay!)
Charger for the Kyocera TNT: $20
Replacement battery for the Kyocera TNT: $20
New Kyocera TNT phone with charger and battery (no contract): $10

Note that the charger and battery in question will also work on some more expensive phones, so the pricing isn't entirely nonsensical, but this is an interesting form of price discrimination in that it relies entirely on cognitive factors instead of incidental costs or a captive audience. Also odd is just how fast the price drops for whichever cell phone is the lowest-end model.

Speaking of odd features of our modern world, one odd thing I neglected to mention in previous posts: JetBlue has, among other cost saving measures, replaced the lemon wedges used in beverage service with packets of dehydrated lemon powder. How futuristic.
l33tminion: (HHGTG Stub)
Overthinking It has some rather excellent (over)thoughts on advertising in the wake of last weekend's Annual Television Commercial Grand Prix (and Football Match). First, there's an article on a particular genre of ads, the commercials for which have a message of "bad things happen to you when you use our product". But the real brilliance is in this piece, analyzing the Dodge Charger commercial:
The motto at the end was “Man’s… last… stand!” but it might as well have been “Compensate… for… something!“ This is not, generally speaking, behavior that your audience is going to want to emulate. [...]

Are we to understand, then, that the add is targeting mid-life crisis sufferers who are so far gone that they just don’t care anymore? Or is it targeting aging hipsters who think that the crisis-of-masculinity is going to be the next trucker hat, making this the first ironic muscle car?

[...]

To sum up—the premise of the commercial, to begin with, seems like it would only appeal to someone whose basic attitude is “Look, honey, I feel emasculated, and want a big car to make myself feel better.” The specific aesthetics that they bring to bear on it makes the message even darker: “Look, honey, deep down underneath, I scarcely qualify as anything you’d recognize as human. The only thing that makes me feel alive is driving this car, and quite honestly, this persona that you think you know? The one that you were planning to introduce to your parents soon? Is a lie, and I only created it because it’s the most efficient way to trick society into letting me drive this car on a regular basis.”
l33tminion: (Cubicle Crack)
[livejournal.com profile] larksdream tossed me an interesting link, and I wrote back with some thoughts about it, which I decided would make a decent blog post (with a little more editing). So here you go:

The article in question, The CEO Pay Slice, concludes that firms where the CEO is paid a large portion of the compensation paid to the five highest paid employees tend to do poorly. The article suggests that disproportionate CEO pay is therefore a sign of poor corporate governance.

The article mentions four ways that such firms do poorly:
  1. CEOs with high pay make worse acquisitions. If you worry that your pay is higher than you deserve, you might take "could pay off big" risks to show that you're the sort of risk-taking hotshot who deserves such high pay. Plus, if you're paid high, that probably includes stock that could be worth a whole lot if your acquisitions do take off (and see point 4). If you fail, they won't fire you (see point 3). And if they do, a high pay package is likely to include a golden parachute, where being fired will still be a windfall.
  2. CEOs with high pay tend to be rewarded for luck. I think the article is wrong with its explanation for this one (which is basically a straight "the board mistakes luck for skill"). Rather, if you spend a lot on CEO compensation, you attract CEOs who are willing to jump jobs for one with higher compensation. When industry conditions are good, you worry that other companies will be able to beat your offer. I'd say that this point, unlike the others, doesn't necessarily show bad governance (assuming that the board expects that an expensive CEO will be more expensive in good economic times).
  3. CEOs with high pay have less accountability for poor performance. Well, if their high pay includes a golden parachute, firing them could be really expensive. That aside, there's the psychology of sunk costs.
  4. CEOs with high pay are more likely to be compensated with illegal insider trading. Those most focused on pay are most likely to be corrupt, boards looking to hire such people are likely to go along with it.
In addition, one should expect those most motivated by high pay to be less intrinsically motivated, less creative, and ultimately less productive. One might argue that doesn't apply since the article doesn't talk about absolute pay, but rather pay relative to other highly-paid executives at the same company. However, perceptual salience matters, a CEO is likely to view their pay in relation to the pay of other managers at the same company. It's different to be treated as a "star CEO" than a "member of a highly-paid management team", even if the number on the paycheck is the same in both situations.
l33tminion: (Default)
(Home sick today, and consequently awake now because I was asleep most of the day. Will try to sleep again in a bit, but first, some links.)

Amazon vs. Macmillan: Last week, Amazon briefly stopped stocking Macmillan books when the publisher demanded the ability to set the retail price on their ebooks. Previously, Amazon paid Macmillan a fixed price for each ebook sold (same as physical books, one-half recommended retail price) and then charged customers whatever price they wanted. Amazon was selling ebooks at little to no profit (presumably as a loss leader to push Kindle sales). Macmillan was presumably worried that low ebook prices would reduce customer expectations about what books should cost. Eventually, Amazon capitulated. I think [livejournal.com profile] bradhicks is right on this one, Amazon was in the right, the retail price of books being set by a few publishers instead of lots of retailers is bad for customers, probably bad for authors, and certainly a dangerous trend for retailers. However, none of the authors whose blogs I read seemed to view it that way, though none of the posts in question conveyed a clear understanding of why Amazon was so panicked. Failure to communicate with authors was a large part of why the situation was a PR disaster for Amazon. But they were in a losing position either way. If they just capitulated it was likely (and even now it's possible) that other publishers would also demand to control ebook retail prices, taking a firing squad to Amazon's iPod-esque business model for the Kindle.

Obama vs. the Republicans: Did you guys see Obama's post-SOTU speech and Q+A at the Republican Retreat in Baltimore? Was pretty amazing. Wish the guy had been playing politics like this a year ago. Will he actually be able to push some Republicans into negotiating in good faith on significant policy disagreements instead of opposing everything? We'll see.

Google vs. China: How the heck did I miss talking about that one? Basically, the Chinese government's corporate espionage against Google prompted Google to reverse their earlier stance that it's better to work within the law in China than not to work within China at all. This is evidently part of a long-running internal conflict within Google. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. It's sort of interesting that large corporations now need their own foreign policy. Ultimately, I think that one was the right choice, better to take the losses now than be faced with an even worse moral dilemma later. The more entrenched Google got, the more leverage the Chinese government would have.

Bonus Videos: The best educational video on economics I've seen to date, a demonstration of the fundamentals of modern newscasting, one on traffic signals, one on B-roll, one that was the result of crazy car review show Top Gear being asked to review something practical, one on the dangers of hitchhiking.

Finally: If You Are Sleepless
l33tminion: (Default)
Seems like all the predictions that Apple's latest uncreatively-named project would have some crazy UI innovation were off. Not that there isn't a space for a giant iPod Touch in the netbook market, and the iPad will probably eat the Kindle's lunch. And it may well achieve iPod-like dominance in a new class of mobile devices.

Speaking of much-anticipated speeches, the State of the Union speech is this evening. Obama evidently plans to announce a spending freeze on some tiny fraction of the federal budget, which "fiscally conservative" Republicans will still probably manage to oppose somehow. I doubt that's all Obama has in store, though: Obama can give a pretty good speech, this is probably his best chance to make a substantial change in political direction, and if he doesn't, the Democrats are going to be slaughtered at the polls in November.

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