Sunday, March 30, 2008

My day with Apple, Tibet and Earth Hour

Had my seminar with Apple. They had to break us up into 2 conference rooms -- there were 36 in all -- have about 16 in our group.

Movies about the history of Apple, its new commercial, etc. They have these seminars 4 times a day. They are looking for very enthusiastic individuals and they can afford to be picky. They claimed they have interviewed 1000 people so far.

Unlike Radio Shack, at least Apple didn't put the emphasis on selling. They also put us into teams and we had to present something to the group. A couple did commercials. We presented a concept -- how IWeb could be used to keep families in touch -- via photos (IPhoto) and Podcasts (GarageBand) and hosting blogs.

In my introduction, I pointed out how I had an Mac since 1984 -- have had mostly all Macs since then and that I am on my third Ipod -- and that I use it for more than music -- I listed in Podcasts including ABC News as well as various courses from Itunes U.

When they open the Boylston Street store, it will be the largest store in the world -- it will have 3 floors and they are keeping it mostly under wraps -- opens 'Mayish'. It will be a news worthy story I am sure -- so keep your eyes peeled for it.

They will notify via email, those who they want to come in for an interview.

At least Stacy, the manager, remembered me from 2 months ago. But I am still only 1 in 1000 so I am not counting any chickens just yet.

After my day with Apple, I went for Chinese food at PF Changs, as usual, it was a good meal and then I sauntered over to a Tibetan store on Newbury Street. I wanted to show my solidarity with the protests in Lhasa. While I would never consider myself anti-Chinese, the recent 'staged' 'newsconference' of foreign journalists backfired in Beijing's face. And George Bush has already said we will not boycott the Olympics and he is still planning to go to Beijing in August. I am not sure what should be done, but clearly Beijing holds all the cards, the US none.

I have been studying up on the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a country I hope to visit someday and looked for a CD of Bhutanese music. While teh store only had items made in Tibet and Nepal, I opted for a CD of Tibetan music, since Bhutan is culturally and linguistically linked to Tibet. But I have to make space on my Ipod first in rder to load them up.

I took part in my own little version of 'Earth Hour', now in its second year. Boston did not take part, which is surprising, but many cities and towns acros the globe did take part from Sydney, where it all began last year to Bangkok, Phoenix and Atlanta. It is designed to call attention to the problems of the environment -- meanwhile a huge glacier, nine times the size of Manhattan has fallen off the continent of Antarctica. What is particularly disturbing is the fact that the Southern Hemisphere shas started Autumn, where temperatures there should be cooling, not warming up.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

This year's sprouts

I bought some seeds from Mesa Garden. Don't remember if I sent in more than one sheet, but some items were missing -- they didn't say they were out of stock but they were some Phyllobolus and I can't think what else.

No matter -- I got what I originally and really wanted -- some Pachycereus Pringlei seeds -- Mexican Saguaro or 'Cardon'. They have already sproted after just 10 days or so and although they are supposed to be 'cousins of the Saguaro (Carnegia Gigantea) they are not showing any spines -- although they look like green flower sprouts of some sort.

From the CSSA I procured some more Pachpodium seed -- this time I soaked them overnight first -- and I have sprouts of P. Rosalatum and one P. Gaeyi. Last years seed, P. Baroni, sunk to the bottom of the cup and hope that doesn't mean they are not viable. Hard to tell, since there has not been a sprout at all.

Last year's Pachypodium Saundersonii is still just a stick. No sign of it coming out of doramncy. I do have 3 or 4 Gymnocalycium Qualianum sprouts that took a while, but they sprouted.

I have a few seeds that sprouted, these were last eyars leftovers, that I put into a salad container last year. Soil looks awful, had fungus, but I don't want to transplant them for another year -- in here I have Stenocereus Alamoensis, Pediocactus Bradyi, (never sprouted yet), Asterpytum Asterias and San Pedro cacti and a few Stetsonia Cornye.

In still another bowl, I have tiny saguaros that I hope I didn't kill from last year in the sun along with 2 or 3 Ferocactus Herrarae.

And last, but not least, after about a week after sowing, I have about 8 Lophopora seedlings.

Tips? Advice anyone. I think I am done with seed sowing for awhile. If all grow to a decent size there won't be room for me AND the plants. But it sure is a bost to morale.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Authoritarian Capitalism

One thing I have been trying to get people to get there hands around was the concept of governmental monopolies controlling various markets. Now the Boston Globe has recently had an article on the subject. The world's largest investment bank is in China -- totally controlled by the Chinese government. If the Bank (ie government) likes the concept of your company or idea, it could make life easy for you and you could have all the paperwork done within a day. Nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that it could delay the paperwork endlessly if your company rivals theirs.

The US spent billions of dollars and several decades trying to defeat Communism -- not because they were not 'free', but realistically because Communism did not allow the rich to get richer (and the poor to get poorer) based on market dynamics. It was widely believed in the US that in order for capitalism to survive in the third world, some form of democratic expression would be needed in order for markets to thrive and would bring 'democracy' to these areas as their economies improve.

Well, 20 years after Deng Xiao Ping's dictum that 'to get rich is glorious', the Chinese have created a new paradigm. You can be as open as you want when it comes to business, you jsut can't criticize the political regime. The CCP has also allowed 'capitalists' to join the Party, so that makes them part of the system rather than the regime's most frequent critics. Taking the best of both worlds, some of these government corporations allow free thinking on issues on how to dominate a market, buy up the competition, just like an American corporation - the primary difference being the government backs its corporations so that they do not lose much money or market share due to amrket forces -- things the US doesn't do.

While in the US the complaints have been that corporations are getting so large as to be too impersonal as well as offering consumers fewer choices, still, can American corporations, even its largest, compete against government backed corporations backed by the Chinese, Saudi or Russian governments?

Exxon Mobile may be the largest US Corporation with a $40B profit, but it is still not the largest corporatio in its industry -- that role goes to Russia's GasProm and don't forget that the Saudi government, no friend of democracy or free speech has its ARAMCO, a government controlled oil monopoly. Now Bolivia and of course, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela are doing the same thig -- giving unfair advatages to government sanction enterprises over free enterprise ones. This isn't what the US had it mind when it defeated international communism in 1989.

China ahs learned from the US in another way as well -- using its wealth to buy friends and influence people -- it was the country that bailed out Thailand's sinking baht as well as making huge investments in Southeast Asia, Central and South America and of course Africa, a continent the US has often ignored and overlooked. China isn't stupid -- it will demand political payback -- usually against the US at the UN and other international forums.

The US has wasted the last 5 years and $640B on its costly war in Iraq and for what goal -- higher gas prices. Before the war, Saddam was at least trading oil for fod, now Iraqi oil is off the table, we've helped Iran become the dominant power in the region, while China and India are dominating the global financial and manufacturing markets. Why bother with defense and military expenditure -- let the US do all the fighting and the funding.

With the latest uprising in Tibet and China's brutal crackdown is the US in any position to have any leverage at all? If you think the American economy is in teh doldrums right now, just wait till China starts dominating the world financial markets. The NYSE may become a secondary exchange behind that of Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Same old rant

Thought I had a cold on Wednesday. Turned out to be either a bad cold or minor flu. Didn't go to work yesterday. Had chills and fever. Didn't get out of bed till 1 PM. Phone rings. Been laid off. Not because of calling in, but because its the 'slow' season Made $2B in loans for the company since last summer and they act like they are going under. Heard CFO is building his own golf course. How nice.

I have no clue as to what might happen to me next month, if I can keep a roof over my head, or how long it will take to find another. Eight years of Republican rule have reduced this country to an economic wasteland.

Fifty million Americans without health care, but condos at apartments at Boston's Mandarin Oriental run at $12,000 a month and there are few vacancies. In the New York Times a few weeks back, it mentioned someone who bought TWO condos a the Waldorf Astoria one for $7M and the other (for the children) at $11M. Kanye West once said "George Bush hates Black People". Actually, I think he hates anyone with an income less than $10M.

In the last post, I mentioned the Verizon Spying Law -- and the GOP kept arguing that our security was at risk if it failed to pass -- well it passed yesterday, but without the Corporate Immunity -- and Bush either ahs vetoed it or is planning to -- shows that he is more interested in being cozy to big corporations rather than national security.