August 30th, 2011

After Irene

School started today. Well, it started for T. There were schools in the state that were supposed to open which did not, due to flooding, power outages and similar. B. lost power for a few hours on Sunday. Yesterday morning, one of my friends on the loop I walk had been out of power for about 24 hours and was expecting visitors today; I forgot to look to see if the responsible branch had been cleared or not.

But nothing here can compare what is happening to one of our northern neighbors.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/30/uk-storm-irene-idUSLNE77T05E20110830

The _best_ season for New England is, without question or any possible shadow of a doubt, the fall. The second best season is arguably winter.

"The timing of the storm, at the end of summer and before the Labor Day holiday weekend, was particularly troubling for businesses whose peak season comes in the fall and winter when visitors flock to see leaves turn colours and for skiing."

I hope the waters recede soon.

News Flash: Gross Admits Error

I saw some coverage on Bloomberg, but here's some sample coverage online:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/bill-gross-admits-mistake-in-dumping-us-debt/article2146053/

"he argued that many of his peers were also short on Treasuries when compared with their benchmark, the Barclays Capital Aggregate bond index."

That's his excuse? Really?

"“I don’t know that a 15 per cent underweight relative to the competition was a big deal, but it sort of became so in the headlines,” he said."

Actually, I think it was more his insistent predictions of inflation that got everyone's attention.

"“When you’re underperforming the index, you go home at night and cry in your beer,” he said, adding: “It’s not fun, but who said this business should be fun. We’re too well paid to hang our heads and say boo-hoo.”"

See, even _he_ thinks he's too well paid.

I'm a little touchy on the topic of Bill Gross, Pimco and inflation predictions. He's a big enough name and has a personal style which generates cult-like behavior in a certain fraction of the financial advice industry. What that means for me is that I keep pointing out why he has to be wrong and even when I address every possible argument on the subject, I get referred back to him, because if I just read what he wrote, I'll "get it".

Yeah, well, I never did "get it", and it's just as well. It'd be a good day if he lost his well-paid job. The next person to have it might be worse, but at least they'd be different.

ebooks, patents and lawsuits

A while back, a lawsuit over e-book patent infringement was filed against Amazon by Discovery something-or-other.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10198185-93.html

I haven't found out yet what happened with it.

Here's a 2010 update, in which the corporate restructuring interacted with the pre-existing lawsuit:

http://www.itproportal.com/2010/07/17/amazon-kindle-patent-lawsuit-not-new/

[ But look! More lawsuits!

http://www.intomobile.com/2009/03/24/apple-sued-for-pushing-iphone-as-ebook-reader/

http://blog.patentcalls.com/2011/08/11/inventor-of-e-book-technology-sues-amazon/

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2366142,00.asp

And perhaps most interesting of all, finally a class-action against the publishers and Apple:

http://www.geekwire.com/2011/suit-claims-apple-publishers-colluded-ebook-pricing-fear-amazoncom

Geekwire is considerate enough to include a pointer to the press release and filing.
]


Recently, Liberty Media offered to buy B&N, and then wound up putting a bunch of money in and getting a couple directors on the board. Who is Liberty Media? Well, you can read the wikipedia entry as well as I can. More importantly, here's the CEO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Malone

"Malone is now the chairman of Liberty Media [2] and CEO of Discovery Holding Company."

And Discovery Holding Company bears some close but non-identical relationship to Discovery something-or-other of the patent lawsuit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_Communications

Let the wild and unfounded, rampant speculation begin.

ETA: To add to the fun:

http://www.amazon.com/Cable-Cowboy-Malone-Modern-Business/dp/047123639X
http://www.amazon.com/Billionaire-Shell-Game-Assorted-Corporate/dp/0385479271

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/06/malone.shtm

And coverage from BEA on Amazon becoming a publisher and looking for someone to do print versions of books born digital, while Malone was trying to buy B&N.

http://www.futurebook.net/content/amazon-wants-paperback-partner-eisler-reveals-his-deal

Malone owns more land than Ted Turner -- and he's more on the forestry end of things. Not really surprising.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/monteburke/2011/03/10/john-malone-largest-private-landowner-in-the-u-s-speaks/

Money and Relationships

I'd love to post something clever and thought-provoking about media devices. It would involve listing a bunch of companies that have amassed portfolios of licensing agreements for media. And companies which are at war -- either through the proxy of those portfolios, or over patents in courts -- with each other in making sure their device/ecosystem survives.

If I were exceptionally clever, I could even point out how these people are probably keeping score through the Forbes billionaires list. And how they own ranches next to each other or at least sort of nearby, and how conservation organizations live to figure out ways the environment can benefit from their massive land purchases. I might make a snotty remark about how these devices only exist because of the massive relationship skills of the people who make the ecosystems happen, relationship skills not necessarily enjoyed by those of us who are enthralled by them (or even by those who imagined them in the first place and inspired the ones who built them).

Skill at relationships is absolutely necessary to making our economy go and to making money. But how that works out in the details is wildly improbable.