Archive for the 'Random' Category

Apple now has more cash than the U.S. government

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Maybe the cash-strapped U.S. government should start selling iPads.

According to the latest statement from the U.S. Treasury, the government had an operating cash balance Wednesday of $73.8 billion. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s less than what Steve Jobs has lying around.

Tech juggernaut Apple had a whopping $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities at the end of June, according to its last earnings report. Unlike the U.S. government, which is scrambling to avoid defaulting on its debt, Apple takes in more money than it spends.

This symbolic feat — the world’s most highly valued tech company surpassing the fiscal strength of the world’s most powerful nation — is just the latest pinnacle for Apple, which has been on an unprecedented roll.

Its Macs, iPhones and iPads remain hot sellers, its stock has surged past $400 a share and Apple just became the world’s largest smartphone vendor by volume.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what Apple might buy with its piles of cash — Facebook and Sony being two of the more high-profile examples — but the company doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to make a move.

“We don’t let the cash burn a hole in the pocket or make stupid acquisitions,” CEO Jobs said last fall. “We’d like to continue to keep our powder dry because we think there are one or more strategic opportunities in the future.”

Offering Uncle Sam a short-term loan is probably not one of them.

2011 Update

Topic: England, Random| 1 Comment »

Shock of all shocks, I was not able to keep up the blog for very long. I narrate my life to myself every day but I just cant get it typed up. Aaaah.
I am innocent though. I blame the natural woman in me–she is a real lazy wench.
Well, make yourself comfortable, here is the 2011 update:

We welcomed the new year in a UK country pub dancing the night away with drunk Brits who rocked the twist and in unison asked the existentialist question “Who the F*** is Alice?” during the song “Living Next Door to Alice”.

I spent all of January in Provo due to my immigration requirements. David came for two weeks before he headed back to Australia. It was great fun to be back and see all our friends and David’s family.
I vehemently refused to go and see our house, so we stayed in a hotel. Part of it was that it would make me home sick; part of it was that I would inevitably want to kneel Jonnie for his “Martha Stewart” touches.

I also took advantage of US dental care and got a root canal…here is yours truly drugged …

February and March
British winters are depressing. The weather is dreary, cloudy, and sucks the life out of human beings faster than a Hollywood alien. I looked at pictures of exotic beaches every morning to get myself to the point where I could at least think about thinking about getting out of bed. )

Once out of bed, we went full throttle into our UK sightseeing.
Dover Castle – We explored the WWII hospital housed in the tunnels dug into the chalk cliffs below the castle. David will never forgive me that I made him leave after only four hours.
Stratford – Shakespeare’s and Ann Hathaway’s house – Did you know that to clean chimneys during Tudor times, they would use a live chicken, tie its foot and drop it down the chimney? In the panic of it all, the chicken would spread its wings and thus clean the chimney. Totally brilliant. PETA would love it.
Stonehenge – We got to go to the inner circle–upon signing a waver that we would not slaughter a chicken. I was bummed.
Hampton Court – I love the maze, plus reminds me of my favorite part of “Three Men in a Boat”–my go-to book in times of dispair (it is a very worn copy).
Hastings Battlefield – Oh, Harold, did you get it in the eye or were you dismembered? Historians ponder and you just don’t care.
HMS Victory – Portsmouth Historical Harbor–As David says, “Rule Britannia, and screw you, France and Spain.”
Windsor Castle – In case you were ever wondering, the Queen spends her weekends comfortably.
Wales – we hiked Snowdon, went pony trekking in the Bretons, and attempted to fly a kite on Anglesey.

We also got a book of nature walks around Surrey which we we started to take after work. This picture is from one of them.

(I love this picture so much I had it printed on a canvas and put it in the bedroom. There is something about it that I find mesmerizing.)

Hahah…I am typing this at the family reunion and David is cuddled up next to me on the floor and he just started to snore. I love the sound of a man snoring; I find the sound calming and absolutely endearing. Daddy, you conditioned me well! (You might have driven others to suicide attempts, but your daughter will spend her life sleeping without ear plugs…well, until I have teething kids.)

David is a funny sleeper. He always sleeps on his back, his hands clasped on his stomach. He does not move at all. I, on the other hand, am on the move all night and sleep totally spread out like an octopus.

Anyway…where was I? Am I having an ADD moment? Oh, honey, you would be so proud of me.

Oh, this is a picture of David with a goatee which he kept for 24 hours all of which he spent following me around the house while saying, “Stranger danger.” It was so absolutely creepy! I insisted he shave it off or move into the dog house, and that is how I ended up with Mario….

April was stressful. A Transatlanic move is a nightmare. My parents came to help pack but I still hoped a comet would come to bring me a sweet release.
Our last trip was to Scotland.
I now want to be a sheep farmer in the Yorkshire Dales.
Hadrian’s Wall – we hiked a small portion of the 76-mile wall and I must say that that this hike along with the walk we took at Land’s End will be etched into my memory as one of the happiest and most amazing times of my life.
We took a boat ride on Loch Ness. Saw nothing but I know she is down there.
Falkirk Wheel – just google it.
Glasgow Necropolis – the city of the dead–David lost his phone and we spent the night running around this huge cemetery with flash lights under the watchful gaze of scary gargoyles and cherubim. I would have peed my pants but all our money was stashed in my underwear–as a safety measure against mugging (which seemed inevitable). Hot travel tip: British pounds are not a comfortable currency.
Edinburgh – the castle is a must see.
Fife – The Litsters are from the county of Fife. So, we spent one day running around local cemeteries searching for Litsters. We found one–Ann Litster who died at the age of 16 on Feb 1, 1797. The grave stone was broken in half and the year was unreadable but we got a parish book that listed the year of death. It was incredible.

The Royal Wedding–
Was a nightmare. From the London eye, we watched William’s car pull up to Westminster Abbey and that is all–apart from the greasy heads of about a million tourists.
Wisely, we escaped the insanity and went on a boat ride on the Thames to Greenwich. Camden and Portobello aside, a boat ride on the Thames is my favorite London activity.

We came back May 1st. Spent 300 dollars on deJonnieing our apartment and went back to our old life. Before you ask, let me answer: I love Europe. Living in the UK has always been my dream. I miss Europe terribly. I hope I will get to live there again. But I do love the US. This is an amazing country. And David? David is happy to be back in a country with fast internet and good cell phone coverage.

I spent most of June in the garage getting rid of as much stuff as possible.
We got called to be the cub scout leaders. OMG. Nine eight-year old boys. I felt like Joplin, Missouri, every Thursday. But things have really improved…though I fear the moment when I cant keep them outside and have to bring them inside the house. I might wait till it is 40 below. Fresh air is important for the youth, you know.

Our company blew up a car and my iReport covering the event made it all the way to the CNN homepage. For a CNN junkie like myself that is pretty much Nirvana.
We babysat Sumo. Gosh, I love that dog.
We went on our annual trip to Redfish Lake. I yearn all year for that moment when I push the kayak into the lake. I love the Sawtooths. So much…I got a speeding ticket for going 22 over. Seems the policeman did not understand I did it out of happiness. Aaah.
My last day at work was on Thursday. I am sad. I cried a lot. I will miss some people terribly.
It is David’s birthday today; 31. I love you, Honey.

Well, that is kinda it.
Love you all. Thanks for reading.
Keep tuned for my next big adventure – backpacking through Iceland.


Interesting point about the unrest in Egypt

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Does Anyone Remember Egypt: The Prize?

Published: Wednesday, 2 Feb 2011 | 10:41 AM ET


A little over nine years ago, one of the biggest stories in international affairs was Thomas E. Ricks’ page one story in the Washington Post about a briefing given to a Pentagon advisory group, that characterized the Saudi ruling family as enemies of the United States.

The story, published on August 6, 2002, described a 24-slide presentation given by Rand Corp analyst Laurent Murawiec in July of 2002. His audience was the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel of wonky foreign policy nerds. Jack Shafer at Slate followed up the next day by actually reproducing the PowerPoint presentation.

At the time, the greatest attention was paid to the shadowy background of Murawiec—he was a vaguely neo-conish guy who no one had ever heard of, but was once associated with Lyndon LaRouche—and the anti-Saudi part of the presentation.

But a lot of people also noticed the weird end of the presentation. The very last slide declared the “Grand strategy for the Middle East” in three bullet points.

  • Iraq is the tactical pivot
  • Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot
  • Egypt the prize

What was so striking about this is that no one knew what the hell it meant. Sure we were angling for war with Iraq. And a lot of neocon types seemed to have it out for the Saudis. But what was Egypt doing on the list, and why would it be the prize. Here’s how Jack Shafer put it:

Egypt the prize?

Because none of the Defense Policy Board attendees are talking candidly about the session, it’s hard to divine what "Egypt the prize" means or if Murawiec’s briefing put it into any context. It sounds a tad loopy, even by Dr. Strangelove standards. The Post report does mention a "talking point" attached to the 24-page PowerPoint deck that describes Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East. That’s extreme talk even by the standards of the anti-Saudi editorialists at the Weekly Standard and the rest of the invade-Iraq fellowship.

The mystery of Murawiec’s classification of Egypt as “the prize” was soon forgotten, I’m afraid. So much else turned out to be wrong with our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that this incident more or less vanished from our collective memory.

But now that Egypt is in the headlines again, I thought it might be worth reconsidering the idea of “Egypt the prize.” And, as it turns out, I’ve discovered what appears to be Murawiec’s original speech that I believe accompanied the slide show.

The speech is dated May 22, 2002—just a month before he supposedly delivered it to the Pentagon group—and is 76 pages long. It was hiding in plain sight on the website of the Hudson Institute, although as far as I can tell it has received no public attention at all. Importantly, it sheds light on what Murawiec meant when he described Egypt as “the prize.”

Under the subtitle “The Frightening Case of Egypt,” Murawiec writes:

Historically, demographically, intellectually and to some extent religiously, Egypt is the fulcrum of the Arab world. After the assassination of Anwar Sadat, Hosny (sic) Mubarak set a single-minded principle for his dictatorship: he would not be killed like Sadat. As a result, his policy has forever been one of balancing out the centrifugal forces of Egyptian society, and the forces at play in Arab society at large. The terrible legacy of more than twenty years of his rule lies in two aspects: what he has done—give a much freer rein to Islamists in the public, academic, corporate, religious and intellectual spheres while ruthlessly repressing Islamists when they use violence—which has demoralized, subverted and rotted Egyptian society and public life—and what he has not done—devoting the country’s resources and energy to economic growth, investment, infrastructure, education, etc. Egypt is overwhelmed by its demographic growth. It has become a Malthusian basket case. The result is an explosive mix. Traditional Moslems and modernist Arabs have been marginalized, hounded out of the public scene, while the virulent press endlessly incites hatred and violence against Israel and the U.S. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis, the remainder were Egyptians.

Mubarak’s ability to gyrate with the prevailing winds offers us the temptation of relying on his opportunism: why not let him crack down on the Islamists once we have terminated their power elsewhere, and benightedly allow him to stay in power without policies being changed—isn’t he our friend after all? That would be a sure recipe for disaster. The pivot of the Arab world is the most important one to transform in depth. Iraq may be described as the tactical pivot, the point of entry; Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot; but Egypt, with its mass, its history, its prestige and its potential, is where the future of the Arab world will be decided. Egypt, then, in the new Middle Eastern environment created by our war, can start being reshaped.

From our standpoint, though, Egypt has to come up at a later stage of the strategic course presented here: it cannot and should not be tackled prior to the fall of Saddam, the cracking of Syria and Hezbollah, and the abasement of the Saudis. It will become possible to tackle the essential issue—that of a useless, dysfunctional tyranny—once the above have been successfully carried out. In the meantime, pressure must come down hard on Mubarak and his regime to stop pandering to militant Islam, notably in the abominable Egyptian media. The 41-part teledrama “Horseman Without A Horse,” based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zionand spread to the entire Arab world, is part of the terrorist assault on the West.

So perhaps Murawiec’s PowerPoint presentation wasn’t quite as strange as it seemed. The idea seems to be that, despite all the focus on Afghanistan and Iraq back in 2002, policy-makers need to keep in mind that “the future of the Arab world” would be decided in Egypt.

Unfortunately, Murawiec died from cancer in 2009, so we cannot ask him what he thinks of events in Egypt over the past week.

Hugo Chavez

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This is an old article from the Telegraph that I just came across. It is so well-written, I just had to post it.

Hugo Chavez bans singing in the bath, appoints Minister for Electricity Shortages – come on, Gordon!

It’s official: baths and jacuzzis are anti-socialist. Not for nothing do their opponents describe the proletariat as the great unwashed. That worthy heir to Kadar and Ulbricht, successor to the great Fidel as liberator of Latin America, Hugo Chavez the President of Venezuela has written a new chapter in the Marxist canon. Henceforth, nobody is to sing in the bath or the shower, since it is a distraction from the basic business of washing, and no more than three minutes is to be spent in the shower.

“If you are going to lie back, in the bath, with the soap and you turn on the – what’s it called – the jacuzzi,” raved Chavez during a televised cabinet meeting, “imagine that, what kind of communism is that? We’re not in times of jaccuzzi.” (That has a ring to it: “times of jaccuzzi” – it sounds like the title of something Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have knocked off: “Love in Times of Jacuzzi”.) “I’ve counted, three minutes, and I don’t stink,” insisted Chavez.

These remarks tell us two things about Chavez. The first is, he obviously has no teenage daughters. The second is, he is so barking that the current denizen of 10 Downing Street could give a passable imitation of sanity if seated alongside him. You could not ask for a better illustration of the knee-jerk instinct of socialism to intrude into every area of private life than the prohibition of singing in the bath and the restriction of showers to three minutes.

In fact, baths and showers may soon be totally eliminated in the People’s Republic of Venezuela, since government mismanagement of public utilities, combined with the climatic effects of El Nino, are creating a looming water shortage. The other impressive achievement of this communist government is that the oil-rich nation is appointing a Minister of Electricity Shortages to deal with the worsening power crisis. It’s déjà-vu all over again, for anybody who remembers the triumphs of socialism in Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1989.

But imagine the chagrin this must be causing in Gordon’s bunker: a maniacal piece of state control-freakery – and somebody else got there ahead of Labour. Do not be surprised to find a ukase being handed down against singing in the bath in Britain, almost certainly on climate change grounds. Have you any idea how much greenhouse gas is pumped into the atmosphere by 60-somethings warbling Simon and Garfunkel favourites in the bathroom? No, well you can bet some climate-change busybodies and Eurocrats will currently be investigating, with a view to introducing a ban.

In the classic chicken-and-egg scenario, it is impossible to assess whether Hugo Chavez is inspiring Gordon Brown, or vice-versa. The Enforcement of Dingy, Mercury-Contaminated, Eyesight-Destroying Light Bulbs Order may have been imposed in Britain ahead of Venezuela, but soon we too shall need a Minister for Electricity Shortages (“Power Cuts Czar”). One thing is sure: the Stalinist instincts and the urge to intrude, to repress and to posture suggest a very similar DNA in the dictators of Venezuela and Britain. Better go now and hammer on the bathroom door – before a commissar comes and does it for you