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It's a gift - He can't help it
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jean Carlos Chera is a 9 year old professional football (soccer) player. Manchester United wanted to train him until he could play in the premier, however, Santos (Pele's and Robinho's club) beat them to the punch:
    Brazil champion Santos has beaten out Manchester United for the rights to train a prospective future star -- nine-year-old Jean Carlos Chera. Santos brought the boy's family from southern Brazil and is paying him to train with the club in the coastal city of Santos, 400 kilometres southwest of Rio, the team said yesterday.

What's amazing about this story is not that a 9 year old is being trained to play in professional football, it is that this little kid is quite an spectacular soccer player. You have to see it to believe it...

11:18 PM | 2 comment(s) |

Harvard Sucks!
Friday, July 08, 2005

As far as good (harmless) pranks go, this one has to be on the top of the list. It was a geeky prank that needed ingenuity, preparation, execution, and guts.

The short story:
    On November 20, 2004 at the 121st Yale-Harvard game, 20 Elis donned custom made "Harvard Pep Squad" t-shirts, applied enemy-red war paint on their faces, and set out to pull a prank on 1800 Harvard alumni. Like clockwork, these brave Elis proceeded to exude more Harvard spirit than any Cantab ever... tossing t-shirts to the lucky and unsuspecting few, and passing out 1800 sheets of red & white construction paper in perfect order to the cheering Harvard crowd. With 4:47 minutes left in the second quarter of the game, each member of the crowd raised their sheet of paper expecting to spell out "Go Harvard" as they were told by the cheering "Harvard Pep Squad." Instead, the truth was revealed to a laughing crowd of YALE alumni and students who saw the Harvard crowd spell out in clear red letters "WE SUCK."

I say it was 133t execution...

BTW, I don't know if Harvard sucks, as I've never been there. But, some Yale students seem to think so :)

There is a video of the whole thing and some student press coverage.

Finally, this is what it looked like:

I say...I'd never...

9:51 PM | 0 comment(s) |

The Live 8 miracle
Monday, July 04, 2005

I wish I could take credit for my insights on the Live 8 marketing concerts, but there was nothing really insightful.

I won't even write "I told you so" :) - However, I'll let the professionals say it for me:

How to sell records: Play at Live 8

Record sales leap after TV success at Live 8

Live 8 - Was it about poverty or about business?

Stars see album sales soar after Live 8 gigs


Hm? Funny how that worked out - Whose poverty where we trying to cure?

11:41 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Why and How
Sunday, July 03, 2005

Human curiosity is the inherent drive of progress. If we didn't ask why and how we'd probably still be sacrificing humans to non existent gods.

As "advanced" societies, we know so much, yet know so little about ourselves, the laws of physics governing us, and the universe in general.

One of the most interesting (to me) unanswered question lies in the "newer" theory of Quantum Mechanics. According to physicists studying this new theories, everything physical is a "probability wave." I.e. Things don't have smooth edges, as we think they do - Don't ask me to describe a probability wave. Either you see it, or you don't - I don't ;)

It's a fascinating fact that when we start looking at things in detail and zoom into the core of the building blocks of everything, we hit the fundamental particles of our universe. At this level, nothing behaves the way we are used to or expect to. Material things take shape and form because we acknowledge their existence - Think of Schroeder's cats for every fundamental particle.

On a side note, the idea of "created only when observed" reality came about from the Copenhagen Convention: a bunch of physicists had to agree that the cat existed only when one looked at it. I.e. The cat was dead and alive at the same time. Although, this view of our reality is being challenged by more objective Quantum theories.

A quick example of how things don't work the way we expect them to at this quantum levels has to do with Gravity. Gravity effects atoms and electrons differently than moons around planets. You'd expect that electrons eventually spiral into the nucleus of an atom due to Newton's gravitational law. I.e. due to the nucleus' larger mass. But, nope - Electrons just orbit the nucleus until something makes it jump. Either a chemical reaction here and there or a photon hitting an electron. Hmmmm...Solar power.

It's all very "spooky" if you ask me. Spooky is, by the way, what scientist call some parts of the observed behavior :) I.e. Nonlocality: things happens simulataneusly. You guessed it; It's weird: no speed of light limit - Very spooky, indeed.

Science Magazine put together 125 unanswered questions for your curious pleasure.

In case the site decides to change the link, I have a local copy of their list.

12:56 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Live 8: It's the marketing stupid
Friday, July 01, 2005

"End African poverty now!" the tag line goes.

I think one of Live 8's objectives will fail. I'm not a pessimist and the producers of the show probably have good intentions, but you and I know that poverty in the African continent will not end after the concert. However, the main aim of the concert is to market singers to a massive audience.

I don't get why musicians making a name for themselves don't pick an economics book and start being more politically active by voicing clear, logical, workable, and coherent messages and not by playing make belief via popular songs.

It seems that in their minds, because they are known to the public and because they say so, they can end poverty of a whole continent with singing.

We need to act with facts and with logical plans to be implemented in order to help the groups in societies that do need help, not by wasting resources in pointless concerts.

Has anyone calculated how much it will cost to put these concerts together? How much money it will cost to advertise during the live broadcasts? How much it will cost to clean up after fifty thousand (per location) concert goers? I'm no accountant, but I can estimate tens of millions of dollars. Can we use that money instead to aid the local "poor."

The truth of the matter is that marketing super rich rock stars should not be camouflaged as aid for the poorest of our continents. In a way, it's an insult to our intelligence.

America, f***k yeah!
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, satirized the phenomenon of celebrity idolatry in their new movie Team America: World Police.

Team America's plot revolves around a group of private paramilitary, elite puppets that serve as the world police. The heroes of the movie need someone to infiltrate a terrorist group in the middle east to find out where and when terrorist attacks will take place. Thus, they recruit an actor to save the world with "his acting." Not "by" his acting, but "with" his acting. At the end of the movie the heroes go all out in battle against celebrities, such as Helen Hunt, Matt Damond and George Cluney. You must watch this movie to understand how this Live 8 concert is the same thing. You'll laugh at both.

The producers and entertainers of Live 8 are demanding world leaders to forgive international debt and to give more money (our tax money) to African countries in order to end poverty. Are they so blind not to see that giving money to these countries only benefits the ruling regimes?

What these countries need is an economic rebirth, not more free money.

The funny thing about the economy is that in order to be sustainable you need stable governments in order to manage commerce. The African countries, unfortunately, lack stable governments and sustainable economies. Note that these statements are not a secret nor very insightful or original from my part--they are common knowledge.

How to solve poverty in 3 steps
The infallible plan to eradicate African poverty, according to Live 8, is simple. It goes as follows:
  1. Super rich singers sing

  2. ?

  3. At the end of the concert, the ultra poor are no longer poor, due to #2 above
Great! We can probably try applying the concept to end African hunger too. Oh, wait. This guy already tried that with "Live Aid." And we all know how that turned out, i.e., It didn't work.

Somewhere in #2, the plan is to pressure G8 leaders to end "poverty" in Africa by "forcing" the populous to watch non-African singers sing. It almost sounds like Trey Parker came up with the idea--to be funny.

So, if I watch U3 sing, my "G" leader will end African poverty? Why not try to end local poverty?

I think these guys (Live 8 organizers and artists) are giving way too much credit to current world leaders. Have these singers looked around their own countries? Have the Canadian singers walked around TO's Financial district? How about US singers in Chicago's magnificent mile? I was asked for money 4 times in one block. 3 times by the same guy--this dude was persistent, and I admired that.

But it's not that these G8 leaders are stupid. They are not. Some of these presidents and prime ministers are actually advised by very smart people. Some of that smartness has to rob off onto them, even though naturally they may not have been blessed with the "smart" gene. How many of us don't think that we are smarter than the average US president :) It's our right, I guess, and some of you probably are.

So, even though the G8 leader's main concern is to make their respective countries richer (that means all of us) with their free trade agreements, they don't purposely seat in their Herman Miller chairs and say to each other "Let us make poor people poorer and on the way there kick the first cute puppy we see," as some may want to believe. I'm sure it's a bit more complicated than that.

When you think critically about the whole G8 gatherings, those leaders are there to represent the majority of our advanced societies. It happens to be that we are paying them to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, in our North American societies the "poor" (Whatever that is) have less to say in what goes on in the economy. Hence, we leave those matters to our elected politicians, i.e., raise the standard of living for the majority and in the process everyone will benefit.

I have to admit, though, that these benefits are not reaped by all in some occasions. It's unfortunate and probably not intended.

Our North American economies (I have to include myself in it from 1989 to the present) are not what they are because of free money or singers singing songs for free. It has taken a couple of centuries of sweat, blood, and hard (very hard) work.

I have to mention that the super rich of our societies do give and try to help humanity in general. The one example from the US I can think of is Bill Gates. He donates some (read billions of dollars) of his own money to different worthy causes. In Canada, Michael Laziridis (RIM's CEO) gave $100,000,000.00 of his own money to create the Perimeter Institute, a theoretical physics establishment.

The sums of money these leaders of our industries are donating are not small. But you have to notice that these funds are not sent directly to African countries or Latin American countries. Think about it. Why would anyone want to create a theoretical physics institute? Most of what these scientist talk about is probably only understood by 80 or so individuals of our entire world population (if not less). $100 million seems a bit excessive.

The reasoning goes that by advancing science, everyone in the world benefits. This is actually true. The changes made are not instantaneous. It takes time, but it works. Eventually, everyone will benefit from a few Joe Shmoes understanding Quantum Mechanics.

Over the weekend, I shook Laziridis hand at some formal function at Waterloo. At the end of our one minute conversation he suggested that I donate money to my alma mater. No, not to the poor directly, but to an institution of higher learning (He's actually the Chancellor of Waterloo, so he had to ask.)

Why should I give money to a University and not send it to Africa? If you look at the socio-economic breakdown of the student population of most universities you'll find that a big percentage of students are from middle-class families. Do these students need the money? Probably not. But the point of sustaining research and letting smart people sit around for countless hours staring at walls is not to make them rich, but to aid in sustaining creative thoughts that in turn evolve into new technologies that will eventually help every human being on earth. Electricity, small pox vaccines, laptops, drinkable water--it's all good in my book.

The irony of this whole Live 8 concert, and what inspired these ramblings, is that if all these performers and producers donated ALL the money they have made and will make (due to royalties) in their whole lives, they could probably end the poverty they are talking about (at least of the most needy). I have yet to see, though, a single singer giving away their fortunes to these African countries (in part or whole). In other words, I don't see a real commitment to their cause.

Should they give their hard earned fortunes away? Of course not. It's irrational, hence they don't do it. But they (whoever they are) are asking world leaders to do what they don't personally do. I guess it's easier to forgive billion dollars of debt when it's tax payers' money.

Anyway, it's ridiculous for us to believe that this Live 8 concert will cure poverty. Some critics of the concert are actually saying that the participants are probably going to sell more records later on due to the "free" PR. I don't blame producers and artists for participating. It's their livelihood, after all.

The solution
I don't know the solution, but I can personally say that by being entertained, enjoying a cold beverage, and wearing $200.00 shoes and designer jeans will definitely not directly help the "poor" anywhere in the world. Some concert goers will end up forgetting why they are there in the first place. Is it to watch U2 or to help the Gomez family in a country they don't know even exists?

A more realistic solution will probably involve bringing economical development and educational programs to these areas. And most importantly, a change in their government. If the core of the ruling class doesn't change, forgiving debt, sending more free money, and singing singers will do nothing to "cure" poverty--in Africa, or downtown Toronto. BTW, I'm not advocating invading any country and throwing the ruling regimes out of the window. It may be viewed as wrong, if there is no oil around.

It's the marketing stupid (A Clintonesc feeling, no?)
On a final note, Live 8 is not hurting anyone (some may disagree). It is actually generating dialog about the actual problem. However, we should call it what it is: marketing of rich singers. Why hide it?

What is the first rule of Live 8?
Rule #1: Watch LIVE 8 on TV and online. No joke here.

The final rule of Live 8 is to email our G8 leader. It's the last rule. Not the first, but the last. And it says to "email," not call or send a letter, but email your "G" leaders (SPAM filters will get a good workout). Check it out.

I still can't figure out how watching Madona grind her hips will aid the poor. But then again, I'm not a musician.

BTW, If you click on the link the Live 8 site is providing, the first thing you'll see is a nice Flash movie with: "What's hot: Song for Britney's Baby..." Not even a picture of the African continent. I think the Live 8 message got lost somewhere already.

But maybe not. What I'm arguing here is that it is all about the singers. And I don't see any contrary evidence.

A couple of final questions
Skeptical? yes.
Will I go? No.

    Geldof is criticised for using Africa as "a catwalk" which is more about reviving the careers of ageing rock stars than about helping the poor in Africa. Many charities had been planning a rally on July 2 targeting the G8 summit and were apparently surprised at the Live 8 announcement, although, due to the common cause, protest has been muted.

    People have pointed out the absurdity of super-rich celebrities preaching about extreme poverty to the masses for a day, before returning to making and spending enormous profits. Damon Albarn also suggested that the performers' record labels should pay "a tariff" as the accompanying publicity would increase future record sales and hence their profits.

Principles of Marketing, 5th Canadian Edition.

11:20 PM | 7 comment(s) |

The future's past is now

In our era of cheap storage devices (read cheap hard drives), anything you do electronicaly is backed up on some database somewhere.

For those with paranoid personalities: yes, BIG brother is really watching :)

Anyway, if you didn't know there is an actual "web archive" that keeps storage of old web page, there is one:

I put up around 2002 - Check out the transition of my site into a blog format.

And of course, the company that started it all, Netscape.

4:29 PM | 0 comment(s) |

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