Four Wheel Fly

posted by on 2010.09.07, under Entrepreneurship, News, Technology

Next year you might have a chance to buy the first commercial flying car.  Developed by MIT grads, the Transition by Terrafugia is planning on launching a vehicle that can fit in your garage, is street legal, yet can fold out wings in 30 seconds and take off for flight for up to 500 miles.  Take-off and landings must take place at airports, and pilots must have 20 hours flying experience from earning a Sports Pilot license.  2 people can ride in one, and they boast that their is storage room ideal for golf clubs.  It runs on premium unleaded fuel, and will likely start at around $200k.

There are several other projects designed to help us become more like the Jetsons.  Will police to monitor this new form of traffic, and if so where do you go if they pull you over?  What will insurance premiums be?  Will Nascar evolve? Will there be smog tests? How much more will mechanics charge? Will the big auto companies get into this? So many questions, So many questions…

Bouncing A $17 Billion Paycheck For Freedom

posted by on 2010.07.01, under News

In 1991, the US and our coalition were paid by $17 billion by Kuwait for war efforts that freed the country of from Iraqi occupation. The monarchy was reinstated, and after 2 years and $50 billion of infrastructure expenses, the country bounced back into prosperity leading the Arab nations in educational and economic statistics.

Today, while sipping on a Tecate in the Townhouse in Venice Beach, California, I told my good friend from Kuwait the story of Paul Revere.  It’s a story most American’s studied in early childhood.  I recently read about how the famous midnight ride was a prime example of the importance of “connectors” in our society.  (The Tipping Point)

I grew up listening to punk rock and always wanted a cause to fight for, but never really found it.  Today, instead of anti-establishment melodies and lyrics, I play flamenco renditions while rapping and parody singing R&B songs.  I consider the defect of my musical activism embarrassing, yet honest.  But on this 4th of July weekend, anticipating the arrival of my best friends visiting LA before I migrate inland to one of the former largest slave-trading city in US history, I have allowed myself to be impassioned with rebellious stories of other nations.

The Secretary-General of the National Democratic Alliance Khalid Al-Fadhala was sent to a 3 month jail sentence in a controversial court case after criticizing the prime minister HH of Kuwait.  Recently a journalist was released on bail from prison for similar charges.  There is a growing resistance in the country of people who want the prime minister to step down, after several accounts of corruption, including writing checks worth millions to MP’s.  The specific offense that Khalid Al-Fadhala was convicted for was related to slandering the prime minister at speech themed “go, we deserve better.” He accused the prime minister of teaching people principles of money laundering.

It’s the 5th richest country in the world, with 10% of the world’s oil reserves.  The country has a 94% literacy rate, and the median gross income per capita is almost $100k.  2/3 of the country is made up of foreigners, however, and 90,000 people have been banned from leaving the country because of debt issues outlined in the constitution.  The recent budget passed by the government has a $14 billion deficit, with almost half of the $56 billion expenditures exhausted on government salaries.   The country needs to sell over 1 million barrels of oil a day to pay these salaries.   More than 1/4 of this budget is for subsidies, ‘which guarantee low prices for fuel to power plants, petrol and other essential commodities.’  8.5% of the budget is for defense spending, while $3.8 billion was spent on a “one off payment for government pension.”   Almost 90% of the country’s revenue comes from oil, and 10% of this revenue is allocated to the’country’s sovereign wealth fund, whose assets are estimated at around $277 billion.’  That is decent chunk of change.

Despite the reserves, The liberal movement seems to be fighting for a future.  With a finite supply of oil, it makes sense to The Hyderabadass for this country to diversify.   They are effectively paying their government salaries with oil money that will eventually run out.  Then what?  How many pearls need to be dived for to pay the $25 billion salaries?  Where is the incentive for people to work in private industries if government salaries are so inflated.  $300 billion will run out very fast in a country that spends $56 billion a year, and any cuts made will certainly effect the lives of the majority of people depending on it.

All people, like the colonists that Paul Revere rounded up for the American Revolution, respond to incentives.  Even the most complacent person may resist control from authorities when certain liberties are taken away.  In general, I believe that people tend to have a strong interest  for the freedom and rights of their children, regardless of their interests into their own individual futures.   In Kuwait, government salaries have tripled in recent years, yet today 50,000 people protested this violation of a person’s freedom of speech.  There are less than 1 million actual citizens in Kuwait, with less than 40% eligible to vote.  It seems like the injustice of a particular individual being imprisoned for a speech is providing incentives to a nation for a much needed reform.  Today there are 1.6 billion people in the world living without electricity.  Perhaps its time for this oil rich nation to see a light at the end of their tunnel and build a sustainable society that continue to prosper in an everchanging global economy.  Just this week, Tesla, an electic car company went public with a very successful IPO exceeding a $2 billion stock market value. 

In conclusion, I am very interested in seeing what happens from here.  Will the prime minister continue his stance at punishing his critics?  Will the courts support it?  Will the people unify and form an opposition?  What’s the prince up to during all this?  How long will Khalid Al-Fadhala stay in jail?  Will social media be ammunition for an opposition?  How will the western world react?  I have heard 30 times today about the Nigerian soccer team being banned for 2 years by their president, but have yet to hear this story broadcast, even on the BBC.  At one time, there was a global concern for democracy in this country, a concern that profited the coalition handsomely.  Will this concern continue even in the absence of Sadam?   According to Kuwaiti law, it is forbidden to speak out against the monarchy, but is it wrong for the people to protest corruption of their democratic leader? Finally….Who’s taking the camel out for a midnight ride? 

Smoking Baby

posted by on 2010.06.04, under News

Smoking Baby Hooked on Cigarettes – Watch more Funny Videos

I’m watching 2 year old kids in Indonesia blowing circle shaped smoke from cigarettes on Italian television while airing out my clothes in the window to get rid of the tobacco smells from the nightclub last night.   For the first time in Milano, I am not regretting not using the 7 series “How to speak Italian” that was uploaded to my iTunes folder.  I’m certainly not homesick, but I do miss the no smoking indoors policies of Los Angeles.

It’s frustrating to watch video clips of babies smoking 40 cigarettes.  I don’t understand the whole story because of language barriers.  Initially I thought babies smoking cigarettes was just a YouTube phenomenon, but now realize it’s a global crisis, with kids starting to smoke at the age of 5.  How does this happen in the modern world?  The reporter shows maps and stats from around the countries, including India, and I am a little relieved that I can’t understand exactly what is being said.

In my study of social entrepreneurship here in Europe, I have met people who have dedicated their lives to solving problems in their communities.  How can the world allow this problem to keep growing?  I thought we started addressing tobacco issues a few decades ago, but I am starting to think we just exported the social problems elsewhere.  Has there really been progress?  I once heard from a distinguished CEO that it is actually better to have your employees smoke, because you end up paying less in healthcare in the long run because they don’t live as long as non smokers.

It seems like companies are exploiting the third world on new levels now, but I am clueless how this began.   In this situation, I think that they are being somewhat counterproductive, because creating acceptable environments for toddlers to start chain smoking removes them from future labor markets, which is like short selling their future assets.

Let’s give the tobacco companies the benefit of the doubt… I think that the local cultures and families ultimately carry the responsibility and accountability for their children to not smoke.  This is a critical time for social entrepreneurs to design programs that can educate and inform these families to change.  The families in the video clips I watched seem to think it is cute that their babies can blow smoke into shapes.  Lets figure out a way to get these kids building blocks and toy bubbles instead of cancer sticks, yeah?  This is a prime example of a global issue in need of a social entrepreneur to step in.

Healthcare Bill? Nope, just a post about the EyeWriter

posted by on 2010.03.22, under Entrepreneurship, News, Technology

FutureEverything awarded the 2010 prize to the EyeWriter

“The EyeWriter is a pair of low-cost eye-tracking glasses that allow artists and graffiti writers with paralysis to draw using only their eyes. Inspired by Tony Quan, a graffiti writer, social activist and publisher who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (AML) in 2003, The EyeWriter is the result of a collaboration with five other artists and a production company. It is an ongoing project to empower people suffering from degenerative neuromuscular diseases with creative technologies.”

This is one of the coolest inventions I have seen all year, and I can’t wait till we can get one for my uncle.  Check out the video below to see how it works, and watch the artist project graffiti art in real-time onto LA buildings from his bed.

The Eyewriter from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

More pictures

Oh, and I guess there is some news about Healthcare today….I’ll let you check your facebook feeds for that though, I openly admit that I can offer no intelligent commentary on the matter.


March Madness (in the Pants)

posted by on 2010.03.19, under Humor, News

Who would have guessed that vasectomies were a seasonal business.  I used to work in retail where marketing campaigns tried to incorporate seasonal promotions, but I have to admit, it was surprising to hear that such a medical operation could be promoted in the same way.  Offices are seeing an increase of 50% in appointments for the first week of March Madness!

It makes sense… its a perfect schedule the operation to maximizes recovery time (3 days on the couch) while giving an excuse to watch crucial daytime basketball and have a decent excuse to get time off work

Ten reasons for getting a Vasectomy during March Madness according to the advertisement.
1. Extended office hours during games
2. Continuous ESPN coverage in the lobby
3. FREE snacks while waiting
4. Office is less crowded than a sports bar
5. Complimentary recovery kid
6. Doctors orders – 3 days on the couch
7. Excuse to stay in bathrobe all day
8. Keep Austin Weird – not overpopulated
9. You’ll be ready to love in the post season
10. It’s HIP to get SNIPPED (wow)

This is probably the best execution of a marketing campaign in March Madness I have seen, next to the Pizza Hut/NCAA/Bookit I remember from 4th grade.  I just hope March Madness is not the only reason some of these fans are going in to get snipped…

billion dollar deathbed investing

posted by on 2010.03.12, under News

This will blow your mind.  AIG, Bank of America, GE and other corporate giants sell bonds with a provision that allow investors to redeem a bond at face value if one of the investors dies.  Guess what our financial genius’ started doing?

With prices as low as 50 cents to a dollar, investors are pairing up with terminally ill people to scoop up bonds at bargain prices, and holding on to them until the ill partner passes away.   Returns of up to 200-300% are common.  About $83 billion in outstanding bonds are being held with this “survivor” option, which was originally installed to encourage elderly people to invest in the market without fear of losing their money if they died. 

Just another short-term manipulation of our markets that will probably have a worse effect on the overall economy than these people thought when they started abusing the system.  When will we learn our lesson with all this nonsense?  Not to mention, how informed are these terminally ill people about what is going on? Hopefully they got/are getting their cut.

The Sex Appeal of Innovation

posted by on 2010.01.26, under Entrepreneurship, Humor, News

A study of our European ancestors may propose that ancient cave women couldn’t resist the sex appeal of the innovators of their time.

Looking at genetic patterns in Europeans, scientists see evidence that women from hunter/gatherer societies left their men and started procreating with the innovative farmers of their day.  Although it may be difficult to envision farmers as “innovators” amid our current society cluttered with self proclaimed social media guru’s, scientists who have technology to clone you, and engineers who can design gadgets that either can make our lives easier or miserable, ancient farmers spread a disruptive technology that changed the way people lived.  They also probably really pissed off the hunters and gathers, who’s genes faded throughout the centuries following the loss of their lady friends.

Who are the “farmers” and “hunters and gatherer’s” of today’s society?


posted by on 2010.01.21, under News

This week, I have taken up residence in a hotel in Venice because my apartment could not handle the powerful rains in Southern California, and leaked.  I have heard several similar stories, which blows me away that in 2010 houses still can’t keep people dry from rain, especially in the entertainment capital of the world.

The leak has since been fixed, and I am moving back home today, however just received this alarming report of the weather that may be in store for us west coasters in the coming 3 weeks.  This is a bit too intense for a midwestern boy who can handle snow and cold weather. 

In one day this week, LA had a tornado warning, snow advisory (mountains) floods, mud slides, strong waves that closed beach piers down, and who knows what else.  Wanted to share this weather report from a US Geological Survey, that says we are going to get a full season of rains in just a few days.

Currently, the strong El Nino is reaching its peak in the Eastern Pacific, and now finally appears to be exerting an influence on our weather. The strong jet has been apparent for quite some time out over the open water, but the persistent block had prevented it from reaching the coast. Now that the block has dissolved completely, a 200+ kt jet is barreling towards us. Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state. The jet will itself provide tremendous dynamic lift, in addition to directing numerous disturbances right at the state and supplying them with an ample oceanic moisture source. The jet will be at quite a low latitude over much of the Pacific, so these storms will be quite cold, at least initially. Very heavy rainfall and strong to potentially very strong winds will impact the lower elevations beginning late Sunday an
d continuing through at least the following Sunday. This will be the case for the entire state, from (and south of) the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon. Above 3000-4000 feet, precipitation will be all snow, and since temperatures will be unusually cold for a precipitation event of this magnitude, a truly prodigious amount of snowfall is likely to occur in the mountains, possibly measured in the tens of feet in the Sierra after it’s all said and done.

But there’s a big and rather threatening caveat to that (discussed below). Individual storm events are going to be hard to time for at least few more days, since this jet is just about as powerful as they come (on this planet, anyway). Between this Sunday and the following Sunday, I expect categorical statewide rainfall totals in excess of 3-4 inches. That is likely to be a huge underestimate for most areas. Much of NorCal is likely to see 5-10 inches in the lowlands, with 10-20 inches in orographically-favored areas.[Such as these hills – rg]

This is where things get even more interesting, though. The models are virtually unanimous in “reloading” the powerful jet stream and forming an additional persistent kink 2000-3000 miles to our southwest after next Sunday. This is a truly ominous pattern, because it implies the potential for a strong Pineapple-type connection to develop. Indeed, the 12z GFS now shows copious warm rains falling between days 12 and 16 across the entire state. Normally, such as scenario out beyond day seven would be dubious at best. Since the models are in such truly remarkable agreement, however, and because of the extremely high potential impact of such an event, it’s worth mentioning now. Since there will be a massive volume of freshly-fallen snow (even at relatively low elevations between 3000-5000 feet), even a moderately warm storm event would cause very serious flooding. This situation will have to monitored closely. Even if the tropical connection does not develop, expected rains in the
coming 7-10 days will likely be sufficient to cause flooding in and of themselves (even in spite of dry antecedent conditions).

In addition to very heavy precipitation, powerful winds may result from very steep pressure gradients associated with the large and deep low pressure centers expect ed to begin approaching the coast by early next week. Though it’s not clear at the moment just how powerful these winds may be, there is certainly the potential for a widespread damaging wind event at some point, and the high Sierra peaks are likely to see gusts in the 100-200 mph range (since the 200kt jet at 200-300 mb will essentially run directly into the mountains at some point). The details of this will have to be hashed out as the event(s) draw closer.

In short, the next 2-3 weeks (at least) are likely to be more active across California than any other 2-3 week period in recent memory. The potential exists for a dangerous flood scenario to arise at some point during this interval, especially with the possibility of a heavy rain-on-snow event during late week 2. In some parts of Southern California, a whole season’s worth of rain could fall over the course of 5-10 days. This is likely to be a rather memorable event. Stay tuned.

Samuel Y. Johnson
Western Coastal and Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 427-4746 voice
(831) 252-0812 cell

Sugar Mama

posted by on 2010.01.21, under Entrepreneurship, Humor, News

Times are certainly changing. Recent reports by the Pew Research Center indicate that more women are becoming sugar mama’s in our society. In the 60’s it was normal for a woman to be fired once they got married. In 2007, it was reported that 22% of women in the US made more money than their husbands. When looking at education of married couples, 53% of the couple had the same level of education, In 28% of the couples, the wives had higher education compared with 19% of the couples with men having more education.


Accountants in the supreme court

posted by on 2009.12.08, under News

There is a huge trial going on in the Supreme Court that will drastically impact business in the US.  After the corporate scandals and accounting fraud from the Enron days (2002), Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) act was passed  to protect investors from being lied to again.  There has been controversy surrounding this law since was passed, The Wall Street Journal estimates the law costs our economy $1 trillion since it was passed, and that 20% of public companies were considering going private because of SOX.

The trial is between Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and an accountant named Brad Beckstead.  Beckstead believes that the governing board should be appointed directly by the President, not the SEC, turning the issue into a separation of powers issue.  If the court rules in Beckstead’s favor, than the entire SOX law will be brought down, because it does not have a “severability clause” (law is invalidated if one clause goes down)

It will be interesting to see what happens with this.  It is generally agreed upon that SOX was put together hastily after the scandals in the early 2000’s, perhaps to restore investor confidence. None the less, the intention seemed to be for the welfare of the economy and the vital investors that keep it afloat.  Rahm Emmanuel had mentioned taking actions to reform the act, to help small businesses out.  If SOX goes down completely however, there might be a window of opportunity for creative accountants to take advantage of the lack of regulation..  There could be terrible consequences to the recovery of the economy if certain people get greedy again.  I am interested to hear from accountants how they feel about this….I am guessing that there will be mixed feeling, as I understand many jobs were created in auditing from the law, but it has also seemed to be a nuisance to professionals in the industry.

Outside of this accounting issue, I am not convinced that corporate crooks are finished with trying to destroy this country for their personal profit……While flying home for Thanksgiving, I read about what is UBS is doing to Detroit , kicking the city when it is down, cashing in on $400 million break-up fee from an unethical “exotic derivitive” investment it swindled the city into.  Detroit is now spending $4.2 million extra a month to pay this debt, before they can spend a dime in education, city utilities, or any recovery effort to try to fight the 28% unemployement rate.  This is going on all over the place, and I personally am disgusted to hear about it.  Weren’t these the same financial institutions that were begging for tax money to bail them all out?  Why am I not getting text messages from CNN at 5am about this kind of stuff, but instead getting constant updates about Tiger Woods love affairs?

A quote from a phenomenal movie NETWORK is appropriate here,
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”