Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lessons for Prime Minister

All these tasks require a leadership with a profound understanding of what is needed, and an iron will to carry it out, in the face of vested interests, political apparatchiks, much ignorance, out-of-date thinking and even fanaticism. To be better prepared for the difficult tasks awaiting him, the next prime minister would do well to study the moral and real-political lessons of Abraham Lincoln and Charles de Gaulle. Both men ensured that the will of the majority would prevail while mobilizing wide support for painful and controversial measures. They broke illegitimate resistance with force when necessary, were astute politicians, reformed statehood and regimes, and laid the bases for their countries' thriving futures. These are qualities no less required by Israel's next prime minister.

Look to Lincoln and de Gaulle - Haaretz - Israel News

Our own Prime Minister could use some of those lessons.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sony Reader Big Disappointment

Ok so I am letting steam off. I just spent hours on the stupid Sony Reader PRS-505 that I bought against my better judgment from London. Unless you are a tech specialist, and not any tech specialist, working for Sony.. don't bother with it!

First of all you have to install the Sony Reader software that restricts you to buying ebooks from Waterstone UK, if you manage to do that, with limited book selection. Then you are required to install another software -some adobe software- that can read the ebooks. Then you have to transfer the ebooks from one place to another and another.. Needless to say I never managed to do that. And there were lots of plug ins you need to find and install.

I never had such issues with the older version of Sony that I bought online from the US. This is not user friendly at all and is full of complications.

Indexing Wins

Basic stock market index funds generally aspire to nothing more than matching the returns of a market benchmark. So in a miserable year for stocks, index funds may not look very appealing. But it turns out that, after fees and taxes, it is the extremely rare actively managed fund or hedge fund that does better than a simple index fund.

Strategies - The Index Funds Win Again - NYTimes.com

Even in down markets indexing proves to be superior to active management. Remember hedge funds are called this way because they are supposed to be a hedge in down markets. As if we needed a reminder on how effective the financial services industry is!

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Sony Reader and Amazon's Kindle 2

 

More importantly, the Kindle and similar devices made by Sony and others represent only one side of the evolving e-reader market. They are for aficionados, since paying $359 for a device makes sense only if you read quite a lot of books, newspapers or magazines on it.

The march of the Kindle | Well read | The Economist

I recently purchased the new version of the Sony Reader from London. It sold for about 200 pounds ($285). I have been using the first version of the Sony reader, and the new version got even better. It has the same functionality but got even slicker. In my old Sony Reader the page number did not match the paper book version. This was amended in the new Reader among other improvements.

You buy books the same way through the Sony store (similar to the concept of Apple's itunes) which you have to install on you PC. Or if you are in the UK through Waterstones.com. After downloading books to you PC they are transferred to you Reader using a supplied cable. I noticed in Sony's US site there is a touch screen version of the Reader with built in light that sells for $399.

Kindle 2 which is just revealed has the advantage of working wirelessly but only in the US at this point. You purchase books directly from Amazon. The complaint on the previous version of the Kindle was that it was clunky. This seems to be improved in the new version. It has a key pad which Sony does not have to write notes and other features. It sells for $359.

If I were in the US I might have considered the Kindle 2. But I prefer the Sony. The Kindle 2 probably has more bells and whistles but I prefer the touch and feel of Sony Reader. For both you need US or UK credit card and billing address in order to purchase books.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Salem Al-Sabah's Plan

 

[T]hey should not let the best be the enemy of the good: crisis management inevitably results in inconsistencies that a subsequent reconciliation and reform effort must address.

PIMCO - Viewpoints El Erian New Thinking Dec 08

Members of Parliament and the general public should keep the above in mind when considering the stimulus package unveiled by the Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. And time is of the essence. A good plan at the right time is what we need. Let's hope for a swift approval of the Governor's plan.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Liberal Education

 

A few years ago, a faculty committee at Harvard produced a report on the purpose of education. “The aim of a liberal education” the report declared, “is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves.”

What Life Asks of Us - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

The argument for liberal education is one side of the spectrum. The other side is the more conservative education through certain institutions religious or others.

Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity.

But they often save us from our weaknesses and give meaning to life.

Need there be a conflict between the two? Any liberal education to the extreme will only produce confusion. On the other hand an extreme conservative education will produce bigotry. A liberal education thrives on solid foundation and builds on it.