Friday, November 30, 2007

Sub Prime Crisis Leaves Schools Holding Junk

Florida Schools are borrowing money to pay teachers as school district investment funds are frozen, according to this report today on This is an alarming situation. The growing subprime loan crises now is taking its toll on US Schools. That's right. Greedy bankers are sinking our schools.

Here's how it works. School districts receive funding in a variety of ways: from annual state payments to bond proceeds. So large districts often have substantial sums of cash on their books that is better invested than parked. Makes sense, money needs to make money so ground isn't lost to inflation. So a bunch of large funds sprung up to service these needs. You know what's coming, don't you?

Sure enough, many of these funds invested in loan-backed securities including large portfolios of now worthless sub-prime loans. In Florida's case, the state "froze" the investment fund behind fears of a classic "run" on the assets. Fund losses were so large that massive withdrawals by client school districts would have literally broken the bank. Not a pretty picture. To make matters worse, a lot of towns and fire departments also use these funds to invest taxpayer dollars - according to the Bloomberg report. So just because your own personal property may escape foreclosure, don't breathe too easily. You're going to pay for the schemes of greedy bankers in so many ways. We're just beginning to get a grip on how many.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cumbia - Musical Gold from Columbia

Cumbia is everywhere. I've got a few bars of cumbia as my personal iPhone ringtone. Gets a lot of smiles. Cumbia is first and foremost Columbian, with origins in Guinea in Africa, according to Wikipedia's very informative article on the subject. The infectious musical style has swept Latin America and is gaining ground in USA. Los Lobos does Cumbia (Cumbia Raza). A staple of Tejano tunes, the late Selena was queen of the Cumbia. See her perform Amor Prohibido here.

Cumbia is definitely working class music, full of energy and joyful release. It is the up-beat rhythm, and the combination of instruments (image: Guiro) and voice that distinguish Cumbia for me. This is dance music. Or ginding, booty-shaking sounds, depending on your preference. Originally folk dancers used Cumbia in courtship dances, formalized encounters with eligible males and females enticing each other; making eye-contact; and touching in the proscribed, well-known movements of the dance. A wonderful tradition that continues today.

Now, Cumbia is danced in clubs and at parties where North and South Americans with hot Latin blood (or their partners) gather. At house parties in San Diego, Sacramento, Santiago, San Martin and San Antonio.

From its Afro-Columbian origins, Cumbia has developed dialects, and regional variations. In contemporary Columbia, Celso Pina is the acknowledged Cumbia King. Check out Celso in this video. In Argentina, groups like Damas Gratis define the street sound of Cumbia. In Chile, Cumbia is enjoyed by the upper middle-class and the wealthy. And Peruvians have their own take on the style. I am most familiar with Mexican versions, performed by artists like Lila Downs. From Puebla, on the great Mexican plateau, Cumbia has spread throughout the country, to the US, and now to my iPod.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is the US Becoming a Third World Nation?

I was struck today by this report on the wires that U.S. fourth graders had lost ground in test scores against many other developed countries, and now even lagged behind Russia. Behind Russia? In a vacuum, this report is disturbing. When mashed-up with other recent news reports, like our increasing, worst in the developed world infant mortality rate; the 47 million Americans without health insurance; the massive home foreclosure avalanche; and the loss of control of our energy and food supplies, it begs the question: are we becoming a third-world nation? For goodness sakes, our infant mortality rate is higher than Cuba's. And recent food recalls - from salad to beef - have been more than alarming. Read more here.

Has our government so squandered our resources and international good will that demotion to the ranks of the developing world is inevitable? And will anybody but our own citizens care? Mind you these are just questions, but I think the conversation around these issues is long overdue. I'm not, unfortunately, hearing many of the candidates address these questions head on. Surprised? I didn't think so. But we're not blind or stupid, or at least those of us who were have learned. It's time for some accounting and a change in direction.

In case you haven't noticed, the very rich aren't suffering much behind this recession. It will be the rest of us that bear the brunt, all the way to the upper middle-class. We're the ones risking our lives on salad-in-a-bag, because we're so busy making ends meet that time saved and convenience become important. We're the ones scraping to make our monthly health insurance payment, if we're lucky enough to even have coverage, and scrambling to save our homes from greedy bankers. For these sacrifices and more, we're being asked to step quietly and quickly to the back of the bus.

So what will third-world living look like? Well, it may just start with this recession. Unemployment will rise, and jobs will still exist, but at the low-end of the food chain. That's already happening. Budgets, both corporate and government, will shrink. Services will be cut back by government, and business will shutter plants. At the same time, disease, mental illness and crime will go up. Starting to get the picture? It gets worse. While we're dealing with this disaster, the newly wealthy around the world will start buying up all of our assets. For example, the tiny Arab emirate of Abu Dhabi just bailed out our largest bank by taking a large share of ownership two weeks after buying a substantial portion of one of our key hi-tech chip makers, AMD. Read the story here. Look for a lot more of that on the horizon. After the dust settles, we may be owned lock-stock-and-barrel by foreign interests. There are plenty of pundits and academics who insist that is a good thing, but I just can't see it unfolding quite that way.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Google Announces Energy Initiative

Google today announced a new energy initiative designed to produce clean energy for less than the cost of coal power generation. A project of Google's foundation,, and Google Corporate, initial goals call for producing a full Gigawatt of power - enough to provide for the energy needs of a city the size of San Francisco. Read about it at Tim O'Reilly's site, O'Reilly's Radar. If you are wondering why an Internet giant is playing in the Energy space, just imagine how much power it must take to run a GooglePlex. O'Reilly likes the idea, and so do I.

Also today, reports surfaced about the Gdrive online storage and backup service that Google is due to announce in short order (the company declined comment today). It looks like this service formalizes and featurizes the functionality the company already offers users of several other products including Google Docs, Google Video and Picasaweb online photo archive. Again, a welcome move from the author's point of view. Readers of Pop Impulse know that I gave it up to Google long ago, and am totally delighted with the results. There's a reason the company's shares are around $700. Google gets it. And, of course, they're not Microsoft.

Monday, November 26, 2007

European Sounds

While I was listening to the sweet sound of Martin Taylor's guitar last night, I realized that I had not yet posted about my European Sounds playlist. Yes, I know. There are like a million styles of European music, and I've posted about a bunch. Even Balkan Gypsy Tango, here. Not to mention several posts on the music of Spain and Portugual. Each have their own playlists. So what's in my European Sounds playlist?

A lot of Gypsy jazz, punctuated by a little tango and musette. I am particularly fond of French Manouch-style guitar, popularized by the late Django Reinhart and the Hot Club of France. Martin Taylor plays Django as well as most, and is a personal favorite. His version of Musette for a Magpie just knocks my socks off. In the same vein, French Gypsy guitarist Romane is a technical and stylistic virtuoso. He evokes the kind of tangible passion that the Spanish Gitano guitarists wring from Flamenco. But in Romane's case, it is oh so sweet passion. Download Selene to see what I mean.

I've also blogged about, of all things, the I've included two of my favorite squeeze-box players in European Sounds. Richard Galliano, and an Argentianian master named Alfredo Marcucci. Marcucci trained in Paris, and plays an instrument invented in Germany, the Koncertina - call a Bandoneon in Argentina (image above). This man is the master of the tango. Watch him play here and here.

Rounding out my European Sounds playlist are some all-American artists and bands, including Madeleine Peyroux performing La Vie en Rose; Winton Marsalis playing April in Paris, and Pink Martini doing Sympathique.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Green Econometrics

If you are curious about the numbers involved in the emerging "green economy," surf by my friend Michael Davies' really wonderful site, Green Econometrics. Someone's got to mine the data; do the numbers, and analyse the results for the rest of us. At least if you are as averse to counting beans, or worse yet predicting bean totals, as I am. Econometrics is the science of applying statistical methodologies and quantitative analysis to study, analyse and understand economics.

I first met Mike in the eighties when he hired me to join Marketing Strategies International, a small skunk-works marketing research team that consulted with Ron Roner to help Apple target market niches prior to the introduction of the first Macintosh. Even back then, Mike's favorite book was the Statistical Abstract of the United States. That's right. And fancy regressions were his forte. Since that time, he's gone on to a bunch of Wall Street jobs, crunching numbers and developing data for financial mavens. He got his Bachelor's from Columbia, and his MBA from UCLA. Sort of a bi-coastal guy. And then, he got his CFA to top it all off. You want numbers, Mike is your guy.

So what's the big deal? Just this: we're entering into uncharted waters right now in our journey through endless economic cycles - as we shift from resource exploitation and excess to conservation and alternative resources. Nobody is sure just exactly what's going to happen, and when. So who do you call? The denizons of data; number crunchers extraordinaire; trend prospectors; and, heavy weight analysts. Who else?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dracula Dies in Germany

On Wednesday of this week, my favorite European newspaper Der Spiegel reported that "Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula Prince Kretzulesco, an adopted descendant of Count Dracula, died in Germany at the age of 67 after spending a colorful life organizing blood donor parties..." I'm not kidding. Read it yourself, here. (Image: Castle Bran in Romania, often associated with Count Dracula)

Aussies Change Direction - Dump Howard

The results are in and one can only hope that U.S. voters are as resolute next November as the Aussies were in their national elections yesterday. Australians finally tired ot the neo-conservative ideology of Bush buddy John Howard and sent him away, with prejudice. Looks like he won't even hold on to his seat in parliament. The Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, swept into office in a landslide. And in a time of relative economic growth and propserity.

Rudd, who will be the next PM, promises to immediately withdraw all Australian troops from Iraq (so much for the coalition of the willing) and to sign-on to the Kyoto protocols for reducing green-house gasses. Rudd is also an Australian republican, and though not a top-priority issue, the country's relationship with the British crown could change.

I know a little bit about Australian politics, as my second-cousin Frank Crean was a vice PM and a Labor Party leader for years - as his son Simon is now. To be honest, though family, Crean senior was perceived to be a bit stodgy - a remnant of the days when Labor was run by the dock workers and had a much more English-style feel. Rudd has transformed the party with new faces, celebrity candidates and more effective appeals to the average, working bloke. Simon Crean has been a shadow minister for a number of years and will likely now get the trade and development portfolio.

Bush and his minions made no bones about their high-regard for Howard. If Tony Blair was Bush's Poodle, then Howard was his pit bull terrier. Australians, in my experience, have a special love for Yanks and are inclined to go the extra mile as our loyal friends. That apparently has its limits and has - at least for a time - come to an end.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fantagraphics & Upton Tea - Two Great Catalogs

It is definitely catalog season. And time to recognize our mail carriers, who labor to deliver the weighty, four-color appeals of enterprising retailers. I'm not fond of the volume, or the waste. There are, however, some exceptions to the rule.
Earlier this week, I received two catalogs that I rather enjoy. Fantagraphics Winter 2008 Catalog and the Upton Tea Quarterly.

Fantagraphics carries my favorite comic artists, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and a host of others including Robert Crumb, Peter Bagge, Drew Friedman, Linda Medley and Miss Lasko-Gross. Not your drugstore comics, these novelas are exquisitely drawn with quirky characters and strong points-of-view (strong language and situations as well). I had a friend who was an underground comic artist in Berkeley back in the day, and I never got over the fascination I developed for street comics. I am pleased to report my own collection remains intact, and I'm privileged to own two signed Rick Griffin posters as well.

The Hernandez bros. are particular favorites. I've blogged about their convention-breaking Love and Rockets series before, here. The catalog features a new graphic novel from Gilbert, and all of the previous volumes from both bros.

The Upton Tea quarterly is a wonderfully produced one-color, 50+ page catalog that always features an interesting bit of tea history - along with an enormous selection of single-estate and blended teas from all major tea producing countries. Orders come with personalized, "especially prepared for [your name]" labels on tins and packets. And each order is accompanied by a free sample. Both are good things, as this is high-end tea for true afficianados. We've purchased a lot of tea from Upton and from Special Teas, another fine vendor of single-estate varietals.

We drink a variety of teas. Our principal brew is a hearty Assam blend, which we occasionally blend at home with single-estate Kenyan. We take our tea British-style, with a little milk (and in my case, a little sugar). So the stong, malty Assam teas make sense. In the afternoons, we brew high-mountain Taiwanese Oolong - often Gaiwan style.

Our favorite Taiwanese brew is Jin-Xuan from the Alishan district, which has a sweet delicate flavor and a delightful floral aroma. Whole-leaf or gunpowder green teas stand up to multiple infusions, and produce a lot of endorphins. No wonder they are well-known conversation stimulants. We purchase our Oolong tea from Ten Tea. Check out this YouTube video showcasing the proper way to prepare Lapsang Souchong tea Gaiwan style. Lapsang Souchong tea is another, specialty brew for us. It's dark and smokey flavor is perfect for special occasions.

Honda FCX Clarity Rocks the World

Automakers appear to be getting the message. At least some of them, like Honda. The venerable automaker for the great American middle class (hey, everybody's had or owns a Honda) introduced on November 14th the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show. I'm predicting a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in short order, because this car is a smash hit and an instant star.

The FCX Clarity's only emission is water, according to Honda's press release. Gives new meaning to the phrase "clean-running," doesn't it? For serious car lovers, and who isn't, this is great news. And the vehicle is good looking - inside and out. Buttoned-up with that traditional Honda fit-and-finish, the FCX Clarity is a sweet piece of work. And just in the nick of time. I want one.

The FCX Clarity is rated at approximately 68 mpg, with a range of 270 miles. Even interior materials are environmentally friendly. The vehicle uses Honda's V Flow fuel cell technology in combination with a new, compact and efficient lithium ion battery pack that is 40 percent lighter and 50 percent smaller than the current-generation. A 5,000-psi hydrogen storage tank takes care of the fuel, which must be purchased from an appropriately equipped service station. There's not many of those around yet and thus company plans call for a limited, three-year lease program for southern California drivers to get started. Thanks, Honda - for leadership and vision.

Postscript: Honda is forward-thinking enough to quickly grant press credentials to serious bloggers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Balkan Gypsy Tango

If you haven't heard the Earth Wheel Fire Band from Serbia, you're missing some really great music. The band was recognized recently by the pioneers of World Music distribution, Putumayo, with the inclusion of the band's tune Gypsy Tango on the company's recent release "Tango Around the World." Thanks to Jefferson Public Radio for playing the tune this morning, and my partner for having the taste to get me up from the keyboard to listen. The band has two disks of their own, which can be found in Circuit City's online catalogue or on the site. Why should you care?

Serbia is known for its brass and especially its trumpet music. Pair one of the country's premier trumpet players with Olah Vintze's renowned band from the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia and you've got all the ingredients for musical magic. The sweet sound of Gypsy guitar, the gravel-like passion of a strong Gypsy voice (not unlike the Flamenco singers of Spain) and the soul of the Balkan Roma. Ahh, bliss.

I confess a fascination for the Roma people, their unusual language, culture and history. Gypsies, as is now well documented and known, started out in the Indian state of Rajastan - then migrated to virtually all parts of the Middle East and Europe. Read my post about Gypsy Music here, then head over to the band's web site (in Serbo-Croatian) and download a free tune. You may also want to check out the band's profile page on MySpace. You won't be sorry.

$$ & Banks Reeling - Recession Looms

I was sitting at lunch last Friday with a number of local bankers and lawyers. They were involved in an animated, half jocular, half serious conversation (as men are wont) about the country's current financial melt-down. Looking to place blame anywhere but in their own policies and practices, most were disparaging stupid consumers who succumbed to "have it all and have it now" messages and the many loan and credit solicitations they've been receiving almost non-stop for a over a decade. Uh huh, that's right. Blame us for your preditory business practices. Typical.

I've posted before about preditory business practices here, and here. The subject is not unfamiliar to me and Pop Impulse readers. It was only a matter of time before the proverbial feces hit the fan in these scenarios, and it has now. Big time. I was struck by a point-on article I recently read in the Asia Times. Doug Noland, who does a weekly financial round-up for the publication, offered some truely alarming predictions - based on some good data and analysis. Read the article here. So let's quickly review.

The sub-prime loan crisis, now well documented and widely understood, is just the tip of the iceberg. Because banks and loan originators got involved in a classic, greed-fueled feeding frenzy they started securitizing their loan portfolios and selling these collateralized debt obgliations to large investors including but not limited to pension funds, school district investment pools, hedge funds and money-market funds. And we sold these mortgage-backed securities worldwide. Now, these securities have gone from an AAA rating to JUNK. That's right, worthless junk. This predictable turn of events has created massive losses in the financial sector that are now spilling over to other sectors, threatening market liquidity itself. This has lead some key financial observers to worry about a system shock to world markets.

Just today, I read in my local daily paper that the auto industry is now threatened by a dramatically rising rate of delinquency and default on auto loans. Makes sense to me as unemployment rises and families struggle to meet higher adjustable rate mortages on their homes. But there's yet another tie-in. Turns out that Chrysler's new owner, Cerebrus (you know, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell) Capital Management is also an partner with GMAC in Recap, one of the nation's largest mortgate loan origination and service companies. We're all way too familiar with their subsidiary, DiTech. Could Chrysler be in danger from the sub-prime crisis? Could we all?

The world is watching as we melt-down. And it's not a pretty sight. Vocal critics of US policies like Venezuela's Chavez and Iran's Ahmadinejad have loudly questioned the US dollar's continuing relevance to the world economy. And China, which funds much of our debt, is also re-evaluating its large dollar reserves. Even our allies like the United Arab Emirates are contemplating pegging their currency to a basket of other currencies - rather than directly to our dollar as in the past. Look, I'm not being paranoid here. There's plenty of reason for concern. By this time next year, deep into the presidential election race, I have a sense that the issue will again be: The economy, stupid.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Delirium on YouTube Trumps La Scala

I posted some time ago about a stunning new operatic tenor who brought down the house at La Scala. Delirium, the critics said of the crowd response to Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez. Read about it here.

I recently came across the now legendary YouTube video of Welsh mobile phone salesman Paul Potts' performance on the BBC's Britain's Got Talent show, an American Idol predecessor. The crowd that night was delirius as well. But more importantly, the net became crazed as the video of Potts' performance went totally viral. Now, almost 17 million views of the original video have been recorded. Potts, produced by Simon Cowell, has gone on to perform in New York and to release two CDs. So I'm going to argue that, thanks to the net, the most celebrated new tenor since the late Pavarotti is Paul Potts.

Tiny Homes - Some New Designs

Tiny homes are all the rage, thanks largely to designer/evangelist Jay Shafer. I've posted about these tiny jewels before, here. Recently I've noticed that the movement is gaining momentum, as the population rethinks the economics and ethics of living space. The age of the MacMansion may be over sometime soon. Of course the current economic downturn, a recession really, is also putting a serious damper on excess. So I've stumbled across two new sources of design for manufactured, small spaces. Check them out here, and here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Take a Vocab Quiz & Help End Hunger

Here's how it works. Point your browser to Free Rice and take a quick vocab test that will definitely increase your wordpower and make you smarter. For each correct answer you submit, some rice is donated to feed the hungry worldwide. You could configure a personal improvement program involving a few minutes per day, and help feed a starving family in the process. What's not to love? If you want to know more about world hunger, and the individual people who are dying today from starvation, cruise by the sister site, And thanks to the BBC World News service for this article - my source of wonder and inspiration in this matter.

Why We Love Portland

Though my family lives in rural southern Oregon, my partner and I are spending a lot of time in Portland these days. Maybe it's because we need our regular city fix, or maybe it's because both of our adult daughters are camping out at home as I write. In any case, we're both involved in a serious and on-going love affair with the Rose City. I'm cross-posting this article to my new blog, Portland Condo, where I'll be regularly holding-forth on all things Portland, Oregon.

As west coast cities go, Portland is rather an unknown to many. And we like it that way. People mention San Diego, Long Beach, LA, San Francisco & Seattle without so much as a nod to Oregon's biggest burg. So let me fill in the spaces for the uninitiated. Portland is the city that Google's "Impeach Bush" more than any other in the country. It is the country's "greenest" city, with well over a million trees and 25% of the city covered by canopy. There are over a quarter million trees on roadsides in Portland.

The city has a number of downtown highlights: The trendy Pearl District with its abundance of lofts, galleries and high-end furnishing emporiums and the formal Chinese garden, walled and compact with a charming tea house in the center is nestled in the heart of the city. The city's famous rose and Japanese garden at Washington Park are totally fabulous, and the Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette river is close to everything and provides a great venue for the city's many parties, like the now famous Cinco de Mayo bash. And of course, the Tri-Met & Max rapid transit system is an example of efficiency and good planning. Free to all riders in the downtown, it is possible to take the system all the way to the airport or more distant residential burbs for a small fee.

Portland is known for its open and progressive attitude and politics; its green hillsides and cityscape; great views; good food and the quintessential Northwest state-of-mind. Locals sport a favorite bumper sticker which urges: Keep Portland Weird.

We are especially fond of the food and wine. I'll be posting extensively on the new blog about our favorite restaurants; events, and art exhibits. So feel free to surf on by Portland Condo from time-to-time if you've got an interest in the Northwest and the Rose City.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pakistan Comes to a Full Boil

As if the Bush administration's problems in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan weren't enough, the only Muslim country on the planet with a nuclear arsenal and the technology to continue to produce weapons of mass destruction faces an utter and complete meltdown. Like we needed that. But it was totally predictable. Only our clueless State Department seemed to miss the signals. An agressively dominant military, an autocratic general-turned-politician, multiple ethnic groups and restive tribes, and indemic corruption and violence add up to a recipe for disaster. Duh. This is a much more threatening situation than the nascent nuclear program in Iran that has so preoccupied Dick Cheney. And if it all blows up in Pakistan, it will take a lot of time and resources to manage the disaster. In a worse case scenario, the fundamentalist Taliban end up controlling two adjacent countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Not a pretty picture.

The mainstream media has reported much of the story behind the current unrest; from the assault on the "red mosque" to the troubles in tribal Warizistan. I've found that Dawn, a major Pakistani-based news organization, does a pretty complete job of reporting. I found a local blog, Pakistan Uncut, that has a lot of pics of the recent violent protests. The images of police beating lawyers and judges ranks with the Burmese authorities beating monks in Rangoon. I found a first-person account here, and a note to Pakistanis abroad about what they can do here. For the "analysts view," check out this overview on the Voice of America.

Friends Don't Let Friends Watch Fox

Fox News, as we all know, is the Republican party's official propaganda arm. Much like their political sponsors, the network routinely lies, distorts and mis-reports the news. Their producers and celebrity announcers seem to enjoy the entertainment bit, as they must imagine themselves clever and pithy. Of course, they're delusional, irrelevant puppets who have been manipulated themselves and now seek to manipulate the rest of us. Just witness the depths to which they've sunk. As if this crew had the gravitas to comment on decency. I think not. And thanks to Robert Greenwald and his crew at Brave New Films for this insight.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Tabasco - A Mexican Katrina

By now just about everyone has head about the devastation in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco. The flooding has left nearly one million inhabitants homeless, many still stranded on rooftops. And now concerns of water-borne diseases like cholera and e-coli contamination are on the rise. Today, I found this great local Tobasco blog with some very dramatic images and vids. For a local's view of the disaster, check it out. It's in Spanish, but the message is clear.

HOW TO HELP: To assist Operation USA in delivering aid to flood victims, call 800-678-7255, donate online here, or mail checks to 3617 Hayden Avenue, Ste. A, Culver City, California 90232

Google kicks some Microsoft Ass

Google continues to surprise me. They so get it. I totally understand why the company's stock just passed the $700/share mark.

Microsoft's expensive investment in Facebook got a lot of press last week. So the prospect, raised in a commentary by John C. Dvorak in PC World, that Steve Balmer and crew were "duped" into making the high bid for Facebook is especially delicious. Early reports cited the ruffians from Redmond as having "won" the bidding war. Not. In a stroke of dissmisive brilliance, Google followed up the announcement by releasing their OpenSocial platform and API, signing up almost the whole A-list of serious web 2.0 players to their team including MySpace, and then; a day later, highlighting 3rd-party apps that were already coming in to support the environment. Slam-dunk. And so well done, it takes my breath away. Gives a lot of credence to Dvorak's point-on hunch. Now I admit I've got a dog in this fight. I watched quite helplessly during the late 80's as Microsoft crushed and consumed a number of my clients. Just ate em right up, with prejudice.

The high-tech industry would be far better off had Microsoft failed in attempts to stave off anti-trust constraints. But they were too big and too vocal an opponent for the Feds - who declined to break up the company when it made sense to do so. Now, the marketplace is taking care of that piece of business. And let me go on the record right now: Google has already won, and Microsoft has lost - regardless of their recently reported profit from forcing Vista down the throats of their closest partners. And the GooglePhone, which promises to change the model for wireless voice communication forever, hasn't even hit yet. The anticipation for that launch is palpable and growing.

The world is moving, as well it should, to open systems and web-based software, storage and communications services. It's a good thing. Google gets that, and is facilitating the migration - making itself invaluable in every area of web 2.0 (and beyond) in the process. It's has the air of inevitability about it at this point. Microsoft's continuing relevance to this process is not clear, and certainly not inevitable as in the past.

I've posted about Google Apps before, here. I use many of Google's useful services, including: iGoogle, Google Apps, AdWords, Blogger, Picasaweb, Google Earth, Google Maping, Google Check-out, Google Page Creator and Google Alerts. What's really cool is that by combining the free and efficient services in creative configurations I can actually architect and build my own personal system, dashboard and communications platform from a single point. I love this stuff. And if you've still got confidentially worries, there's always the Open Office Suite running on the latest Ubuntu rev. as a viable Microsoft alternative. As the various flavors of Linux mature, developers respond with more applications and Open Systems gain market share. The ultimate effect of this trend seems pretty obvious to me. And I'm sure the scenario is creating indigestion on the fabled Microsoft campus. An image I confess to enjoying.

Google's Blogger Play Rocks

Google's new Blogger Play widget for your Google home page is surprisingly fun and way addictive. If you're not already using Google as your home page, you should be IMNSHO. If you are, you can easily add the Google Play widget. Just go here. The widget auto-loads and displays images that are being uploaded, right now, to blogs all over the planet. In Google's words, "You can watch the blogs go by..." And of course, there are hundreds of millions of blogs at this point. If you see a pic that arouses your curiosity, you can simply click on the image and the parent blog loads in a new window. Way fun, very addictive. I've gotten lost surfing for thirty-minutes at a time.