Scripting News for 9/16/07

Today’s links 

Congrats to Hugh MacLeod on his new deal. :-)

Mark Cuban: “I love me some MacBook.” He says Macs don’t have two-button mice, this is a common misperception. I use two-button mice for all my Macs. They “just work.” Honestly, I think Apple ought to give up the fight on this issue, two buttons are no big deal to master, esp compared to other much more complicated concepts you have to master to use a Mac.

Wait a minute. The Apple Mighty Mouse has four buttons, apparently, even though they appear to only have one.

I just ordered a new Logitech keyboard. Impulse purchase.

Yesterday I took a twitpic with my iPhone in the Apple store. This guy was following, at a cafe across the street. Of course he came over, and we had a nice schmooze.

Currency accounts for US citizens 

Did you see Alan Greenspan on 60 Minutes tonight? What a revelation, one of the most powerful political and economic forces, but until now, basically silent. There were so many interesting things in the interview, but one of them left me with an urgent action item. Lesley Stahl, the interviewer, asked what currency he got the advance on his book in? He said it didn’t matter, because he could convert to whatever currency he wanted, begging the question. She pressed, and he volunteered that the best choice is to be diversified. Which of course is a conclusion every money manager would reach on their own, it’s just like stocks and bonds, you never want to have all your eggs in one basket, the best strategy is to be diversified.

I’ve wanted to be diversified in currency for quite some time, but have found it’s not so easy. I have an investment account and a checking account, both are in US dollars, and neither offers the option of anything other than that. I just spent a couple of hours with Google trying to figure out where I could open an account that would allow me to keep cash in euros, yen, yuan, dollars (Canadian, US, Australian or New Zealand), pounds, or… ? I found that I could become a currency trader, which is absolutely not what I want. What I’d like is something like a mutual fund for currency. Or failing that, a certificate of deposit that allowed me to specify what currency it would be in.

So I thought I’d ask the smartest people I know, the readers of this blog. Do you keep your savings in more than one currency? Is there an online bank that does this well, one that a US citizen can use (that is, it sends 1099’s to the IRS). Any ideas would be much appreciated.

TechCrunch 40 

Conferences are in the air, it’s that time of year again.

Sorry to be missing the TechCrunch 40 conference which starts tomorrow. I love demo-type conferences, I was one of the originators of the Demo conference, started by Stewart Alsop in the early 90s. The idea then was to take the drudgery out of going to huge shows like Comdex, where you’d have to walk past miles of meaningless booths to find the really interesting products, which often weren’t even on the show floor.

And even when you found the gems, the demos usually weren’t very good. So Iobbied Stewart to do a conference that would flip the equation around. Do a conference where there were no booths. The demos would be done on computers at a desk, and the demoer was seated, as were the people receiving the demo, usually two or three at a time. Ideally, the demo would be done by the person who developed the product, or the CEO of the company, so that when you asked a question, you might actually get an intelligent answer. And limit the number of people showing to 30 or 40, people chosen by Stewart, who really has a love for intelligent and interesting products. The mind of Stewart of course was key to the process. I wrote the guide to demoing software for the first Demo, which was given to all the demoers and presented at dinner the night before, by yours truly.

When Stewart left, a succession of people ran Demo. At one point, I was offered the job, but I turned it down because I was running a company. I don’t think I would have been good at it anyway, because I’m more of a product developer than a connoiseur. Better to have someone like Stewart or Mike Arrington, who live to receive demos, do the choosing. In some sense I have been trying to create the perfect demo, to be a Demo God (a term I coined btw). I’ve not been to a Chris Shipley Demo, but I hear they’re good. I’d like to go someday. I know Mike and Jason are trying to change things in this area, and change is good, and I don’t doubt that Demo will adapt.

It is a shame to be missing the TechCrunch conference, but I guess there’s a good reason for it, although I sure don’t know what it is. Jason got very very mad at me for interrupting his speech at Gnomedex, and scorched my earth in every way he could think to. I think a mensch would regret doing that, and would say so publicly. I would like to get that out of the way so I could have fun at the conference like everyone else. But since he made me his bitch, it just wouldn’t be fun being there listening to him present the demoers, thinking how mean he had been to me, in such a public and humiliating way.

Anyway, be glad when people respect you, and try to shrug it off when they don’t. That’s the best advice I can give. And bless the demoers, people who have the guts to put their ideas to the test.

5/21/99: Never demo on a development server.

Jeff Jarvis’s conference 

Jeff Jarvis, whose mind occupies the intersection of mainstream media and the blogging world, perhaps more than any other person, is having a conference in mid-October in NYC to bring together people from both worlds to present constructive ideas for working with each other.

Me, my feet are firmly planted in the blogging world, but I’ve spent a lifetime reading and watching MSM, starting with the NY Times at the kitchen table with my parents and brother, when growing up. Some of my fondest memories as a child were our discussions of the days events, and the Times was our common structure. Everyone in our family read the newspaper, often from cover to cover.

As Jarvis councils us, never mind the mistakes, what can we do to make things work better? And I have a couple of proposals in that direction that I will try to present at the October 11 conference. In all cases, they involve the MSM opening up more to include not only the ideas of blogging, but also the bodies of the bloggers.

1. I’ve said it many times before, it’s worth raising again. Any newspaper or radio or TV station with a good reputation in its community could embrace the fresh ideas of the bloggers in their community by offering free blogs to members of the community, who may be new to blogging. I suggested this to the Times in 2001 — when a person is quoted in a Times article, a few days after the piece runs, contact them, and ask if they’d like to have a NY Times hosted blog. There would be no control over what appeared on the blog. It would have a nytimes.com domain (something like bullmancuso.nytimes.com). Build an aggregator, something very much like Twitter (which is after all, a river of news, not exactly a new idea, heh) that shows all the new posts from members of the community. Encourage (but don’t require) your editorial people to read the blog posts. Let whatever happens happen.

2. Here’s a new idea that I haven’t proposed before. Open your newsroom to bloggers. Set aside a half-dozen desks for people who blog in your community, people you’ve gotten to know, and provide them with wifi, a water cooler, your coffee (no matter how bad it is) and chance to work alongside your editorial people and (very important) with each other. It’s an incredible thing when bloggers get together in a physical space, the sparks can really fly. Now imagine what could happen if those sparks got flying between the remaining editorial people in a professional news organization and the bloggers. I believe the secret of scaling the news is right there, you just have to open the door and see what comes in.

A Boston Tea Party for the 21st Century 

Watching This Week on ABC this morning. First they interviewed Secretary of Defense Gates. He’s repping the Bush plan in Iraq, basically no change. Never once did the interviewer ask the Secretary if the voters and taxpayers have any say in what happens. He did ask about the Democratic plan, which is very different from what we the people want.

Then he interviews Sen Jack Reed, a Democrat, who wants change now, but still would only withdraw a small percentage of the troops.

We’ve had so much time to think about this. So much intimidation from the President, first if we didn’t like the war we were cowards, that was the point behind his Cut and Run campaign. We’ve come a long way, but he’s still negotiating through dishonesty. The President says he favors cuts, but he’s lying, his cuts in troops are insignificant, and were mandated by the deal he made with us, that his “surge” was just that. Never mind that we don’t want to pay for this war with more money, lives and attention. It seems we don’t talk about anything but Iraq. There have to be other things falling apart while all our attention is there.

So I have a proposal.

1. Whereas it’s obvious that Bush plans to run out the clock on his presidency re Iraq. There will be no change until he leaves office.

2. He’s trying to set it up so that when the next President takes office, if he or she withdraws from Iraq, this will set the stage for his supporters to call that person a coward and a loser.

3. It seems very likely that the next President will not make any major changes to US policy in Iraq.

Therefore, why should we wait until Bush leaves office? Why shouldn’t we the people, throw out our President-King, using the political tools our founders left us. Let’s remove both Bush and Cheney, and then turn to the Democrat leader, Nancy Pelosi. If they she doesn’t promptly remove our troops from Iraq, impeach her, and keep going until someone in the order of succession gets the message that our government is of the people, by the people and for the people. And we don’t go for taxation without representation.

We see clearly how we’re being manipulated. Most of us are neither Democrats or Republics, we don’t have their interests at heart, and clearly, they don’t have our interests at heart.

16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on September 16, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Great. I’m in. Now how do we go about making it happen?

    Answer? We can’t. Because the tools that our founders left us do not include impeachment by referendum, and we don’t have the votes in Congress.

    Reply

  2. The harsh reality is that the majority of the American people don’t really care about the war in Iraq. Sure maybe a few of us in northern california do. Maybe the families of the troops do. But everyone else is too busy worrying about their next trip to Home Depot or Britney Spears’ latest antics.

    Reply

  3. In theory it would seem trivial to organize the American people to cause their government to act on an obvious desire. Each day I’m struck more by how it isn’t happening in practice. What are we failing to understand?

    Reply

  4. “and keep going until someone in the order of succession gets the message that our government is of the people…”

    I sense by then that our president will be the Whitehouse janitor or the Oval-Office’s cleaning lady.

    BTW, I think he/she will do a hell of a job!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Chris on September 16, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    > “Honestly, I think Apple ought to give up the fight on this issue…”

    I’m not sure what you mean… The standard Apple Mouse has had 4 ‘Buttons’[1] and a 360° Scroll Wheel for about 2 years… 2 button trackpads would be handy though.

    http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/design.html

    [1] they’re touch sensitive zones, not physical buttons so I can see why people might look at them in the store and think they are just one button.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Chris on September 16, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    > “Honestly, I think Apple ought to give up the fight on this issue…”

    They did… about 2 years ago. The standard Apple Mouse now has 4 programable buttons* and a 360° scroll wheel. A 2 button trackpad would be handy though.

    * They are actually touch sensitive zones, not physical buttons so I can see why people might look at it and think there is only one button.

    http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/design.html

    Reply

  7. Posted by gdanmitchell on September 16, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Actually the new Mac mouse is essentially a two-button mouse. You can program it to detect right and left clicks and it already senses both and more.

    With a current Apple mouse attached to your computer, take a look at the mouse preference panel and you’ll see what I mean.

    Of course, you can still use a variety of third-party mice that have more conventional additional buttons.

    Reply

  8. The easiest way to hedge against the falling US dollar (without opening a bank in another country, etc. etc.) is to look into the currency ETFs. These are stocks that anybody can buy on the NYSE which track the value of the dollar/___ currency ratio. The big ones: FXE (Euro vs. US dollar) and FXY (Japanese Yen vs. US dollar). There’s a slightly longer list at: http://finance.google.com/finance?q=currencyshares&hl=en

    Reply

  9. Posted by James Kew on September 16, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    r probably has the best answer. But see also everbank.com: CDs in various currencies; FDIC insured.

    Reply

  10. HSBC is excellent at multi-currency.

    I don’t know about USA, however in Australia they let me easily open accounts in different currencies.

    Reply

  11. My PayPal account let’s me have different currencies. I never used it to convert from one currency to another, so I don’t know if the exchange rates are reasonable.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Paul on September 17, 2007 at 4:44 am

    r:

    Without knowing the size of the portfolio, let’s assume it’s comfortable but not private family office big. Let’s also assume that the author has at least a decade to go before traditional retirement age. Is this really a hedge that is important enough to divert a significant portion of his assets out of, say, equity funds?

    Greenspan is sort of a nut and he’s stinking rich, so I’m guessing that his investment situation is, shall we say, unusual.

    Dave:

    In simple terms, you’re only “in” currency when you cash out. The fact that your brokerage account lists the value of your investments in dollars does not mean that the items listed on you statement have value in one currency only. So the concept of diversifying your currency doesn’t make much sense – you should have as little money in currency as possible.

    The value of the dollar does have an impact on the value of your investments, but that is a different and much more complicated issue.

    Reply

  13. Dear Dave, and to anyone else who wants to actually take action in impeaching our leading criminals,

    Did you know that there is a bill in congress to impeach Cheney? It’s bill number 333, you can see more here: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-hr333/show

    What you need to do is contact your representative, and senator, and just politely voice your support of this bill.

    TAKE ACTION.

    Reply

  14. Posted by mathieu longtin on September 17, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Actually, owning stocks in multinationals is the easiest hedge against a moving USD. Mcdonald’s stock price goes up when the USD goes down just because they still earn euros and pounds and CAD and yens, etc., and their global value stays the same. Meanwhile, you make money on their growth/dividend.

    Case in point, if you invested canadian dollars in a S&P500 tracker 5 years ago, your return in CAD has been about 6%, even though the S&P500 has gone up 15% a year. The CAD has gained value over the USD in such a way that the investment is oh-hum instead of great. Which means from the outside world, the US growth isn’t that great.

    Just owning currency is pretty pointless since it doesn’t bring much income by itself, kind of like buying a house and hoping to make money from its rising value, but not renting it (or living in it) in the meanwhile.

    Foreign exchange is a low return operation, most operations are multinationals moving money around to bring profits home and to pay foreign manufacturers.

    Reply

  15. @paul

    i was simply answering the question “what are some easy ways to hedge against the falling dollar?”

    i wasn’t encouraging anybody to divert a “significant” amount of their portfolio to currency etfs – if you have a “significant” amount of your portfolio tied up in one area, you really need to re-balance your portfolio.

    to answer your question: no, buying the currency directly within a 10-year time frame isn’t going to serve as a great hedge, but i think it’s wise for anybody who is retiring within 10+ years to have some intl exposure. the US economy is still the most pervasive economy in the world – when our markets go down, so does the rest of the world’s (see how this subprime mess is affecting banks in europe and china).

    given FXE (euro etf) has performed relatively equal to the SPY (S&P 500 tracking stock) for a one-year time frame, it certainly is not a bad way to diversify.

    again, to anybody reading this: do your own research before buying *ANY* stocks. i don’t own any currency etfs (i prefer the global etfs like FXI and IEV to hedge against the US economy) – and please, keep your portfolio balanced :)

    Reply

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