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What do Ronaldinho and Jordan have in common?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We all have talents that we develop at different periods of our life. For these two athletes is just happens to be that they are the best of two different, popular, lucrative sports.

Two Sundays ago, I dedicated the whole afternoon and part of the night to professional sports watching.

On TV, I watched Real Madrid vs. Barcelona (Real Madrid won 2-0), and during the evening I went to see the Raptors play against the Cavaliers at the Air Canada Center: the Raptors won 91 to 90. Being an exhibition game and all, LeBrone James was out almost half of the last quarter. But man, can that guy play basketball--I don't think he is as good as Jordan, but he could be.

I've always known that basketball players are tall, but it is a different experience to see them playing in person when you are used to see them on TV (I don't go to live games too often--I'm just not that into it). I was in awe of how tall and co-ordinated all the players are. Everything in the court looks small compared to them: the ball looks small; the hoop ring looks too low; the referees look like children running around; not surprisingly, slam dunks for these guys are a piece of cake; even Samuel L. Jackson looked tiny sitting on the court side seats (on a side note, I kept waiting for him to say something about all those "mother f***ing snakes in the court," but he didn't).

I played basketball when I was in high school and things would have been a lot different if the court was shrunken according to the average height of the players--by the way, my height is no excuse for my suckiness, but with a lower rim, even I could slam-dunk the orange sphere.

The fact that I was part of the team should be telling of Canadian high school basketball. If you try to compare it to US high school leagues, for the sake of argument, you'll be disappointed to find little in common. I mean, Shakeel O'neal and LeBrone James played high school ball, and I've never seen players of that quality anywhere in Ontario (not even in University varsity teams). I always argue that a top US high school team can probably beat a top Canadian University team. I don't know if this is true, but does anyone have proof to the contrary? (I apologize to my Waterloo ex-varsity player friends. You know who you are.)

It is obvious that in the world of basketball, height is king. In the world of soccer, though, height is not really an advantage. Look at Maradona, Pele, and Messi: short guys, but considered some of the best. When you are taller than the rest, though, you may have an advantage on set plays, like corner kicks, but it's a minor advantage.

You can mitigate the advantage by putting players who can read the game at all times. Position is all that there is to it to beat those tall guys looking to score. A perfect example to this tall vs. short duel is Cannavaro. He is one of the best defenders out there and has an unbelievable ability to read the game--this guy will out-position the best strikers in any league, and he's only 5'8" (the wiki entry has it wrong: 1.76 m is not 5' 9.5").

Good defenders is not the only obstacle to header scoring. Leaving aside the quality of the players, not everyone knows how to head the ball into the net. And even when you bring quality back into the equation, tallness doesn't guarantee heading goals into the net. In other words, heading accurately is a learned skill. Take for example Ronaldinho. He is currently the best player in the world right now, and his air game is actually not that strong. He hardly scores with the head, and he is, relatively speaking, a tall player (around 5' 10").

I don't know if Jordan plays soccer, but I will venture to say that he would not be scoring many header goals if put in a professional soccer game. However, he seems to be a natural athlete: he actually made a pro-baseball team, so who is to say that he wouldn't be any good at soccer. But for the purpose of this entry, one of Ronaldinho and Jordan's commonalities is their lack of header scoring ability. Nike, on the other hand, is probably the main reason for this two dudes to actually be in the same room at the same time--they are both professional Nike apparel wearers.

And so we arrive at the common denominator for this two individuals: Nike has made them super rich.

By the way, Nike is a terrific marketing company. If you've noticed their latest balance sheet, they don't manufacture anything, except a hunger for their products. (Well, they kind of do, but they are in the image business and not the shoe business.)

Take a look at these two lines in the statement: Goodwill $130.8 Million and Intangibles $405.5 Million. This is half a billion dollars ($536.3) worth of stuff. But what is it? No one really knows, but we call it the "brand." It is that swoosh thingy named after the Greek good "Nike" that we, as investors, are willing to pay money for.

It's the thought of Nike in your head that is worth half a billion dollars.

Quite remarkable, when you think about it. I say, give me brand or give me death. (And no, this brand is not about the constipation type of brand.)

12:59 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Ballmer selling Microsoft Windows 1.0
Thursday, October 26, 2006

This is from 1985. Steve hasn't changed much, has he?

As per the $99 price for Windows 1.0, it seemed fair at the time--after all, Windows 1.0 can "integrate Lotus 1-2-3 with Miami Vice [fancy weird dance here]."

Accounting for inflation, $99 would be worth $176 today. How much is XP worth today?

For alternatives, you can always pay $0 for your OS (relatively $0).

I bet Linux kept cheery-O Steve-O here awake at night, many nights. I think the dude's nightmares have transformed from free operating systems to free office-productivity tools, a la google.

1:13 PM | 0 comment(s) |

FireFox better than IE7?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I had IE7 installed in my machine at some point in time, but I stopped using it when I got a new laptop and IE6 came pre-installed with it. I decided not to upgrade and wait for the actual official release.

The release of IE7 happened last week, but I don't think I will bother with it. I will try FireFox 2.0, instead. I downloaded it about 1 hour ago, and so far so good.

One of the coolest features so far is the spell checking capabilities to every form element. This is useful if you use web mail and want to spell check your entries on the fly. You can always use a spell checker provided to you by whatever web application you are using, but why would you. This is quite a small change, yet very user centric.

How does it work? It just does. I didn't even know I had the feature until I started writing this entry. When a word is misspelled, it appears with a soft red dotted line underneath the word. To fix the word, right click on it, and FireFox will fix it for you.

Very cool indeed.

If that's not progress, what is?

10:08 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Ronaldirino, neighbourino
Friday, October 20, 2006

Ronaldo (yes, THE Ronaldo) will be Bart's and Lisa's soccer coach in an upcoming episode of The Simpsons. I can't find any version of the news in the English cyber world, so for now it is just a rumour of the Spanish and Brazilian press.

Ronaldo, who? For the last six months, Ronaldo has been on the field for about 30 minutes of official play for Real Madrid, and he has done nothing but run around in circles. I could have done Ronaldo's job for the last six months, i.e., not playing soccer and running around the field.

Professional soccer athletes are at high risk of the type of injuries that put them off line for weeks at a time. Some players are weaker than others, and Ronaldo is very injury prone and seems to be side lined every time you look for him on the field. It's really too bad, because he's a phenomenal player when he is not fat and not injured.

Being a professional soccer player is probably one of the best jobs in the world (beside software development, of course). For starters, you make a living playing soccer, and if you are really good at it you can make a bit of extra cash (millions of dollars in endorsements) by wearing branded merchandise. And better yet, even when you don't play for 6 months at a time you still get astronomical amounts of money, in the form of underserved* salary, just for your name alone.

Look at Beckham, for example, he has been bench-warming at Real Madrid for a few weeks now and he is still being paid his regular salary and is still getting endorsement money. There is a little problem for Adidas, though. Adidas has invested on his playing, winning image and banked on Beckham to play every game so that their shoes are seeing scoring goals. Trust me, it can't be good for their image with him on the bench. I can only imagine the new slogan: "If you are not good enough any more to play professionaly, wear Adidas to warm up the benches of the best clubs in the world."

I shouldn't be too critical, but it is just the way the industry works. However, these guys are the best players in the world, and we expect a bit of extra effort from their part. They should score 10 goals per game :)

By the way, I'm a professional software developer and looking to endorse a few products--email me if you want me to code in style while wearing/using whatever apparel you want me to pimp around. I can do shoes, clothes, gloves, sport drinks, etc., etc. My slogan: "Geeky, never looked so kool and extra-1337. Yeah, baby."

Hey, someone's at the door. Oh good, it's a couple of marketing dudes high up in the chain of command with a couple of T-shirts and bags of money for me. Bench warming glory, here I come...

* Undeserved may be a debateable point, as he gets injured while playing for the team. However, as a player who doesn't play, should a player get paid? I guess you can look at it as workers compensation. Oh, well.

8:48 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Multiverse transition
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I woke up in a different universe today--at least I think I am in a parallel universe. Where else would we see "reputable" news sources writing about this:
  • Bush Sets Defense As Space Priority

    President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."

    This brings an interesting question: who owns space?

  • School bans tag, other chase games

    Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.

    Really? Tag? Where do you draw the line? Not letting kids go up stairs because they can fall down? I certainly don't want to go to school and carry my son up/down stairs every time he needs to go to the washroom.
Let me tell you, in the real universe where I came from, these games were fun and taught kids a thing or two about life. For example, if you were the tag every time, it meant that you were too slow and needed to learn to run faster.

As a parent, I can assure you that the love for a child goes beyond the love for, say, a cool new laptop (my son can't compile Java code into bytecode, yet I dig the little dude more than my X60s). Needless to say that our kids' happiness is priority number one, however, I would certainly prefer for my son to fall down and scrape his knee while playing tag than growing up in a friction-free world. There is always a risk to everything we do. Even getting out of bed is of full danger, yet we seem to be able to do it (almost every day) and make the world go round.

I bet you the guys claiming ownership of space in the first article played tag :) I'm not in a position to say this "ownership" of imaginary 3 dimensional co-ordinates is a good thing or not--after all, I am just visiting from the real universe and I'm sure some of you have a few things to say about this "appropiation."

We'll see which verse I wake up in tomorrow.

I wonder what the headlines will be: "Mark Cuban calls google on the phone and yelled 'MORON' then hung up." "Jon Stewart for president." " makes a profit delivering 60 pound bags of cat litter, worth $5 each, at a cost of $50."

4:31 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Chicken tasting fries and software engineering
Thursday, October 12, 2006

Economists are a trendy breed. I don't think they ever go out of style, due to their crazy invention of free market economies, business cycles, fiscal policies, and such.

Economists are a mix of statisticians and calculus junkies--they love to take derivatives to find marginal costs in price and demand curves. These funky graphs let you figure out how much to produce and where to produce to stay profitable.

Somehow, economist looked at these graphs and came up with the fancy names we throw around to sound smart: economies of scale, economies of scope, economies of learning, and economies of "whatever you can think of."

What are economies of scale? In not so technical terms, it means that the bigger a company is the cheaper it will be to produce trinkets as long as marginal cost is less than marginal revenues, i.e., the revenue for one more item sold is more than what it cost to actually make.

For example, in the graph below (assume you wanted to produce Q5 units), you can see that the most economic production route would be to use up to 3 plants, assuming that this particular company has enough capital to have up to four manufacturing plants available.

This graph looks intimidating at first, but economists are not easily scared. They give these wavy curves the name of Average Costs per plant. So from the graph we can see that for this particular firm manufacturing Q5 trinkets, it is better to be big.

Which brings me to chicken tasting fries and economies of scope.

Assume that C is a cost of function, then economies of scope can be defined as:

C(QX, QY) < C(QX) + C(QY)

In human-speak this means that if we wanted to produce quantity Q of two products X and Y and we had two different manufacturing process, then the cost to produce each product would be C(QX) and C(QY), respectively. Now, if these two products had certain manufacturing commonalities then our definition says that we can put in place a manufacturing plant to produce both products simultaneously and it will be cheaper, i.e., C(QX, QY).

It matters not what the similarities are, as long there is something in common our definition will be applicable. In essence, it is about lowering the production costs of things that share a similar production process, which is what chicken tasting fries is all about.

Earlier today, I visited the local mall to buy lunch from a place I won't name, but the name rhymes with "Paco Bell" and "Pentucky Tried Chicken." The two food chains are owned by the same company, so it makes sense to only have one locale with interchangeable workers and cooking equipment.

Because of this clever saving scheme, I got an extra bit of food for my money--something I call a "consumer benefit." The frying oil for Pentuky's chicken is the same as the fries for Paco Bell. I didn't know this, so I was a bit surprised when I found a piece of (unwanted) fried chicken skin in my fries supreme...I mean fries extreme.

I have to admit I was a little grossed out, but ate the fries none the less and immediately thought of why this happened. And you guessed it, "economies of scope" popped in my mind: both food items are fried, so reusing the oil and frying machine saves money, however, some picky customers may not like it too much--I know I didn't and I'm not picky.

These economic concepts can be used in any engineering context, including software engineering. The names we give them are different, but looking at the graph above and thinking of C(QX, QY) < C(QX) + C(QY), it shouldn't surprise anyone why Object Oriented Development is actually a good thing.

6:54 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Priorities and the modern internet company
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It's all about the allocation of a limited amount of resources to make the most profit in the shortest period of time. It's all about priorities.

While google is investing large amounts of stock (in turn some of it will become cash), Yahoo is investing a lot of nothing into nothing.

In case you live under a rock, google bought YouTube, and Yahoo is beaming 0s and 1s into space in the form of a digital time capsule.

I'm all about the exploration of space and all that is tech/computer geeky in this and the nether world, but the hard reality of market valuations is that it is all about positive NPV (Net Present Value) investments. One of these companies is literally beaming money into empty space.

They are both cool projects, but shareholders may care a bit more about one "investment" than the other. And I'm not saying which one.

7:39 AM | 0 comment(s) |

Google 1 - Mark Cuban 0
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Depending of which part of the world you are in, anyone can say anything about anything. So Cuban said that only a moron would buy YouTube. He gave strong reasons as to why he thought so, and google has called his bluff.

Is google a moron? Evidence would suggest, not. However, how moronic is the purchase of YouTube? From 1 to 10, and 10 being the most moronic, I think this is a 3.

Lets not forget that YouTube hosts quite a large number of copyrighted material. For this type of endeavours, traffic is king and we'll definitely see a drop in traffic once all the copyrighted material is taken down. And of course, Cuban is not entirely wrong when he said that lawsuits will be coming to the buyer's way, but google has a lot of money (that's covered for a while).

We'll see how it goes. As time goes by, I think we will see a decrease in the moronic-buy-o-meter to 0 (0 being not moronic at all).

12:35 AM | 1 comment(s) |

VIQs = Very Important Questions
Monday, October 09, 2006

How many bombs does North Korea have?

Why do cartoon people only have 4 fingers?

4:37 PM | 0 comment(s) |

Smoke and mirrors
Tuesday, October 03, 2006

While typing a summary for a meeting I had today, I had the TV set to the local news channel. As usual, the weather is a guessing game; the TSX is down because of the drop in oil prices and gold stocks suffered much of the downturn; and, there is some type of public office election taking place in a couple of weeks in a town near by.

The display of free democratic elections is not too interesting in itself (this is Canada after all). The candidates, though, is a different story.

In a set of interviews, one said something very peculiar. When asked about his platform, he said "I don't have a platform...They are smoke and mirrors...[platforms] are too political."

Hm? I wonder what his winning strategy is? He alluded to the fact that if you put a bunch of people in one room something good will come out of it. That's a big maybe, in my book.

Mr. Somoke and Mirrors has no plan.

Can he win? I'm no politician, but politics should be, how should I say it, "political." And a platform is perhaps the only document required to tell anyone interested what his stand on important issues actually is. I'd would think that this "non-political politician" needs a plan and a list of accomplishable goals--I doubt winning is one of them in his non-existing smoke-and-mirror non-list of actions.

Would I vote for him, if I had the chance? I don't think so. I don't know what his platform is. Maybe this pesky platform business is a necessary evil to be a politician; and maybe being a bit political would help to get votes.

I'm sure he wants to make a difference, and he could actually have the best ideas among all the candidates, but who would know? How can anyone know...The man is running without plan...Get it...It's funny, right?

11:43 PM | 0 comment(s) |

The long arm of Fox's lawyers
Monday, October 02, 2006

Well, and are gone. It was just a matter of time.

This is what the sites say now:
    I have been asked by fox to close this site. Thank you

    I do think my site was legal, but I'm sure Fox doesn't think so and I dont want to take the risk.
I would think that it is one scary letter to receive :)

BTW, Mark Cuban thinks anyone who buys is a moron. I don't know about that, but he does have the cash to buy it and he is not buying.

Only time will tell if the business model works, which is:

1. Post copyrighted material online (not everything is breaking copyright laws, but some are).

2. ???

3. Profit.

Call me an optimist, but I like those models--regardless of what fundamental finance and accounting and prudent management dictate.

8:11 AM | 0 comment(s) |

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