Saturday, October 14, 2006

There are no rules. Just follow your heart...

Don't know who first said these, but remember these words were my friend-sis Navina's email sign-off. Don't know why, but was suddenly thinking about these, and they seem to make a lot of sense.

This is my desktop background currently. Whenever I look at this, it sends me a message.
Do what you want to do in your life, and
Do only what you want to do, and
Do all that you want to do in your life - you've only got one!, and
Do it now!

Do not mistake me here, i'm not suggesting to be selfish. If caring for others and keeping people around you happy, is what brings utmost satisfaction to you, then that's what you want to do in your life! Do that!

Be ambitious. Be passionate. Pursue what you love and what you're passionate about, whatever it takes in life. And before that, do the due diligence, which is the most difficult and endless thing - first discover what makes you passionate!

I'm still in that process, no where close to finding out what is the single most thing in the world that makes me passionate about. Steve Jobs, CEO Apple, once said during an address. Do what you love to do. Every morning when you wake up, look at yourself in the mirror and ask this question - If today were the last day of your life, would you still do what you had in plans to do for the day? If you receive a NO continuously for a period of time, then you're not pursuing what you love, be it a person or an ambition or a career, and you got to change tracks soon! And that's what he did, when he quit school and found Apple Computer, Inc in his garage.

The question (in the comments section) was my opinion on choosing between what is right and what one wants to do. And here's it. Posting it back here for those who've subscribed through bloglines.

Well, that is an excellent and relevant question. In fact, that is one of the debates that is intensely troubling me right now. I don't say one is better over the other.

While, 'doing what is right' means doing acting to what your mind says. And, 'doing what you want' is acting to what your heart says. The most respectable and ideal person is one who has these two aligned.

I said your point is very relevant to this post becuase I speak here of spending your life doing just what you want to do. And in my opinion, one should always do what he wants to do. If one of the things that you want to do conflicts with what your mind thinks, I would sit back and spend some time thinking if I really want to do that. If yes (and it's not unethical [as I define in MY code of ethics] or illegal) I'll go ahead and do that.

After all, I'm not Jesus Christ or Mahatma. I'm human too. So, discounting for that factor, I'll go with my heart.
But I agree, I need to convince myself before that so as to not feel guilty later, which is difficult too.

And more than that, even today, I mean this very day, I'm seeing people close to me make mistakes on what they feel is right or wrong. Sometimes, you think you're doing the right thing by going against your heart, but then you don't realize some times that everyone around is worse off by that decision in the long run. I do that too, sometimes, although I understand economics. So, it's hard to discern what is right and what is wrong, you don't know what the future has in store. Might as well go with your heart!

But the debate has no end to it! The heart and the mind have been created that way.


Saurav the prince - Part 2

Another good collection. For you Vinesh, against more competitive teams -with the same elegance though!


Question of the day

Q: Who won the Nobel Prize 2006 in Economic Sciences and for what?

A: Sweden - American Edmund S. Phelps (73-year old Columbia University Professor)- for explaining the relationship between inflation and unemployment, work that has had a profound impact on macroeconomic policy.

Phelps is the sixth American to win a Nobel this year, meaning that every prize except for the literature and peace awards, have gone to Americans.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Saurav the prince...

Once a fan, always a fan, and that's what is called a fan. For few of those remaining fans of Ganguly, watch him in action. If you understand Tamil, turn your audio on. This is already my favorite video.

Thanks to Anand, for sharing this.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Is this passion or insanity?

I would go with the latter. Microsoft CEO, Steve Balmer, once again, in action. (an old video). Enjoy!


What's the hype about this backdating option scandals?

We've seen a lot of these in the recent past, including big names like Apple, McAfee and BCGI.
So what's the deal here? What exactly is the scandal?

Options (referred as ESOs - Employee Stock Options) are typically designed to give recipients a stake in improving the company's share price by allowing them to purchase shares in the future at their price on the day the option was granted. By backdating grants to earlier days when the stock price was particularly low, recipients can get extra profit. So, for example, if my company gives me an option to buy stock at $20, when it is trading today at $25, the strike price would be $20 and market price would be $25, and my profit when I excersise the option would be $5.

So, it seems ok, right, this backdating? It was, when companies were just required to state details about option grants to management and employees, in their 10K notes or report. But recently in 2005, GAAP has mandated under the new FAS 123R, that all companies expense out (on their Income Statement) all options, even at-the-money options. So, in an attempt to boost their earnings (with lesser expenses), companies have started backdating their option grants to executives to a much lower strike price, so that they will have to expense out lesser. That's the scandal, becuase such artificial boosting of net income is absolutely not acceptable to shareholders!!

There has been at least 28 dismissals, suspensions and resignations of corporate officials amid probes of stock-option practices at their companies. More than 100 companies are facing scrutiny from federal regulators and prosecutors, who are focusing on the practice of improperly backdating options to make them more valuable to recipients. Yeah!

Refer to this page (it's a pretty cool one) if you want to understand backdating further...


Hey Congress! Save my Internet!

Yes, Save the Internet from the phone and cable companies.

The Bill: The Communication, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006 was passed in the House of Representatives (as H.R. 5252) in May 2006, primarily sponsored by Joe Barton
(R-TX) from the House. The act primarily aims to create a national franchise for video providers. Currently, cable companies negotiate local franchise agreements with local governments to offer video (television) service to communities. They basically want lesser government intervention.

So what?

Loss of Net Neutrality is our foremost concern if this bill is passed. Net Neutrality is the principle that one should be able to access whatever web content or services you choose, without any interference from your Internet service provider. Right now, no law or rule protects citizens facing obstacles to getting access to the information on the Internet. The COPE bill would make it impossible for those protections to be written into law or rule, making us vulnerable to the bells who would like to "own" the Internet and mine it for profit.Some companies like Verizon and Comcast are contemplating on plans to create a two-tiered Internet, where some websites and services would travel in the "fast lane" for a fee - and the rest would be relegated to a "slow lane." Yahoo!, for example, could pay Internet service provider Verizon to have Yahoo e-mail work faster than Gmail. As a result, Verizon Internet users would find themselves pressured to use Yahoo Mail. As a supporter of network neutrality, I strongly feel that this type of favoritism would stifle innovation and competition on the Internet. What is the future for entrepreneurs and startups with hopes of becoming another Google or Yahoo???

Listen to Sen. Ted Kennedy talk about Net Neutrality here.

What's the status now?

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its telecommunications bill, H.R. 5252, in May 2006, without adequate net neutrality protections. Now the fight has moved to U.S. Senate. On June 28, the Senate Commerce Committee passed its own telecom bill, S. 2686. While an amendment to the bill that would have added meaningful net neutrality safeguards, it failed 11-11. However, this tie vote marks a significant political victory and gives the effort new momentum. The debate now shifts to the full Senate, where advocates will be working to get strong net neutrality language into any bill that the Senate considers, preferably COPE.

Chief supporters for the Net Neutrality amendment
Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, LendingTree, Adobe etc. Big names, huh? It may seem so, but it is still a David vs Goliath fight, if you see who they are competing with and their power in the Congress.
Institutional Officers:
House - Ed Markey (D-Mass)
Senate Commerce Committee - Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Byron Dorgan
Senate - Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen Rob Wyden (D-Ore)
Other Interest Groups
SaveTheInternet Coalition
It's Our Net Coalition

Do Visit these links...

Chief opponents to the amendment
Firms: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast etc. - small in number, but they are on the winning side. These are very powerful companies when it comes to lobbying Washington.
Institutional officers:
House -
Wisconsin Reps. Mark Green, Thomas Petri and Paul Ryan

So, we see that it is a fairly divided split between the Republicans and the Democrats, or well, or a little more in the favor of Net Neutrality are the Democrats.

Pivotal Parties (on neither side for the amendment, but support the COPE)
Cisco, Motorola, Corning

So, while we are waiting for the bill and the amendment to be heard in the Senate, those of us who feel that it is our Internet which cannot be snatched away by these telcos, can sign the petition, yes, before it is too late.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Texas beat OU, yet again!

No Vince Young this time, freshman QB, Colt McCoy did the trick. UT beat arch-rivals OU yet again!

Thanks to Lee, for this pic.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tensions at GM again

WSJ Premium

Billionaire investor, Kirk Kerkorian's designate on GM Board, Jeremy York (former Chrysler Corp. and IBM Corp. turnaround specialist) quit from the Board after a failed push to get the company to partner with Nissan and Renault, which came to a halt earlier this week. He acknowledged that the auto giant had made progress to reduce risks of bankruptcy, but at the same time he had grave reservations about the ability of the company's current business model and to successfully compete in the American market place.

Mr. Kirkorian's investment vehicle, Tracinda Corp., indicated serious doubts of whether he will retain his massive 9.9% investment in GM, which amounts to $1.6 billion. Investors pushed GM's stock down by 6.3% to $31.05 yesterday, with volumes nearly 8 times the norm. A fall of this magnitude adds around $120 million in losses to Mr. Kerkorian's investment.

Mr. York's exit exposed the long-running tensions in the GM Boardroom, and this can be a short-term success for CEO Rick Wagoner. But now, he faces the long-term challenges of overcoming GM's competitve ills and threats.

A very classical example of Principal-Agency conflicts!


The Foley Fallout

CNN Uncut

Mark Foley, who quit as a Florida representative last month, is said to have sent sex messages over the Internet to teenage boys who had been congressional pages. Republican leaders, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, are accused of knowing about Foley's behavior and not stopping it to protect their political power.

The scandal has threatened to unravel the GOP's chances of maintaining control of both Houses of Congress, and Speaker Hastert has faced calls for his resignation.

Democrats are intensely using the Foley scandal to turn up the heat on Republicans, a month before congressional elections that put control of the House and Senate at stake.


My 100th post...

Readers and subscribers, thank you.

Hope you find this blog at least relaxing, if not beneficial and thought-provoking. Continue to be attracted. Looking forward to sharing & discussing a lot more information, issues and experiences.

Suggestions are always welcome. Thanks again!


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Exxon Fallacy

I keep hearing people ask this question or pass this comment quite often these days. "How is it fair for Exxon Mobil to report a $30 billion profit per annum in 2005 , while gas prices had been sky rocketing? Can't they take a cut on their net income and pass their profits to the public through lower gasoline prices? Why is the government not taking any action?"

I was unclear about these questions too, until I stepped back and did some quick and simple analysis. So, what is Exxon first?

Company: Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM)
Primary line of Business: Oil and gas exploration
No. of employees: 123,000
Currently trading: $67.32
Market cap: $400.21 Billion (pretty big huh!)
Revenues: 2005 - $339 billion, up 25% from 2004 (again, largest by any company!)
Fortune 500 Rank: #1
2005 Profits: ~$36 Billion (I worked for a Fortune 150 company whose annual 'revenues' were ~$15 Billion. Just mentioning for a scale comparison)

The public wonder how can Exxon be allowed to make such enormous profits, while on the other hand gasolines prices are so high. Is it a fair policy to allow them to do so?
The answer is simple. Their profits are up, only becuase their revenues are up. If you take a look at their 2000-2005 financials,
you will observe that although their net income has grown at a CAGR of 55.23% ($17,720 to $36130) from 2000 to 2005, their net income as a percentage of annual sales has been relatively constant around 8-10% for the past 6 years. So, they have not done anything unethical or illegal to raise or artificially boost their profits. I've summarized this in the table below too.

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

Revenues $227,596 $208,715 $200,949 $237,054 $291,252 $358,955
Net Income $17,720 $15,320 $11,460 $21,510 $25,330 $36,130
NI % sales 7.79% 7.34% 5.70% 9.07% 8.70% 10.07%

And this increase is their revenues or sales, is primarily due to demand. Demand for oil and gas has been growing tremendously in these years, and that's not Exxon's fault!

Thus I argue that Exxon is doing a fair job. It's not its fault that there are 3 energy companies in the Fortune 10 list - with Exxon leading the way at #1, Chevron at #4 and Conocco Phillips at #6.