China is the World's Largest Market

China has just passed the US as the world's largest consumer of computers, after passing us as the world's largest consumer of cars about a year ago.

While in $ terms, they are still far behind the US on both counts, in terms of sheer volume, China is quickly surpassing the US as the biggest market for expensive and high-tech products. While measuring things in volume is a bit misleading, so would be measuring in dollar value. Some economists would go on about purchasing price parity at this point. But while I also have a particular penchant for popularly promoting prolonged arbitrary and amazing alliteration, I think the simplest thing to say at this point is that if you want to sell stuff, not just make stuff, China is going to be the place to be.

Which is not really surprising, considering it has three times the population of the US, but nonetheless is interesting, especially at a time when the US administration seems hell bent on limiting growth and introducing excessive regulation on companies and competition. Farewell #1 spot, never shall we see you again.

RIP webOS

Today, HP announced that they were killing off webOS. What a bunch of idiots. They paid $1.2 billion for it a year ago, and today, after releasing only the shrunken Pre the Veer, and the half-baked TouchPad tablet, they are killing off what is in my opinion still the world's best mobile operating system. Seriously, I just switched to the latest and greatest Android (the Photon) because the Pre3 was not going to come to Sprint - and Android it idiotically counter-intuitive compared to the Pre, and the multitasking... sucks. Plain and simple.

Also, HP... you are a bunch of idiots. Right when Google is moving into the hardware business by buying Motorola  Mobility, and thus Android is showing some weakness with traditional hardware partners looking for new options... HP is abandoning ship. Fucking morons.

I was going to do a long write up for the Pre and webOS - but this article from PopSci does it very well:


You were too good for this world. At least, too good for HP


Palm's webOS-Powered Pre John Mahoney
Today, in an almost insultingly brief statement in the middle of a press release about something else entirely, HP killed off its most recent acquisition, and perhaps its most beloved platform: WebOS, the mobile OS designed by the scrappy gurus at Palm. It's a bitter, inconsequential end for an OS that in its own way paved as much ground as the iPhone, and that even in its current decrepit state is a damn fine platform. WebOS, you deserved better.
Announced back in January of 2009, WebOS felt startling: We hadn't considered that there might be an intuitive yet un-Apple way to use a smartphone. Using it felt natural in ways that Android never would, and full-featured in ways that the iPhone didn't, at the time--multitasking made sense, notifications made sense, gestures made sense. You could tell at a glance what was going on in your phone, but it was never wonky or Linuxy like Android, or inscrutable like the iPhone. We noted back in 2009 that there were some major things that the Palm Pre, the first WebOS phone, did much better than the then-current iPhone.
WebOS was a failed OS, there's no doubt about that. But it failed due to external problems: Palm was too small, and HP too incompetent, to get a respectable development community born. So there were hardly any apps. The hardware, for some reason, never really clicked--Palm had a great track record with its Treo line, but the Pre always felt sort of chintzy despite its frankly adorable design. But what's worse, WebOS stayed essentially at beta for its entire four-year existence.
The iPhone 1 was revolutionary, but had massive problems (no apps, for one thing), too. So Apple fixed them. Android was awful at first--does anyone remember the T-Mobile G1? It was sluggish, buggy, ugly. So Google fixed it. WebOS started out of the gate as a great OS, fully formed in many ways--and then stayed that way. Problems weren't addressed. New hardware wasn't released. The Pre 2 was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and then dumped, because nobody cared anymore. The Pre 3? Who knows. So Palm folded. Its creators left, hired away by Google, Apple, and Microsoft. The company was sold to HP, an out-of-touch behemoth with a history of mobile failure who had absolutely no idea what to do with the platform they'd just purchased.
Today, they showed just how little they cared about WebOS. In the third paragraph of a press release about the acquisition of some other company, they said: "In addition, HP reported that it plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward." In their earnings call, HP spent a minute or two explaining that after releasing one tiny low-end WebOS phone (the HP Veer) and six weeks after releasing a WebOS tablet (the HP TouchPad), WebOS was somehow not making gangbusters money, and should be killed. Now, onto some enterprise printer news.
All WebOS support will be discontinued in the fourth quarter of this year, and HP will probably try, as per this tweet, to sell it to another, smaller company for a smaller price. WebOS's influence lives on, though: The BlackBerry PlayBook, with its QNX operating system, is somewhere between an homage to and a ripoff of WebOS. Both Symbian and Windows Phone 7 have aped WebOS's multitasking--a smart idea, as WebOS multitasking is still unmatched. Gestures from the bezel can be seen in the weird JooJoo Grid tablet and phone.
But WebOS is probably gone for good, beloved by the few that used it, unknown by, well, just about everyone else.

Engineered Water

Today, the world is facing a shortage of fresh water. In 20 years that shortage is just going to get worse: most fresh water sources have been tapped, and a lot of the developing world will see massive population expansion, leading to the need for more eater for both man and beast, as agriculture is the largest user of fresh water.

The solution most environmentalists want and are looking at is water conservation, especially in areas like the United States. The truth of the matter is that conservation does not mean a damn thing when there is simply not enough water to start with.

The solution is in engineering,  as are many of the solutions to today's environmental challenges. The earth has no shortage of water.... we are the blue planet after all. And the solution is to use the oceans as our source of fresh water.

Israel is putting a few billion behind desalinization over the next decade, but the challenge is that even the most moder reverse osmosis plants are damn expensive. The filters that they use to force the large salt particles to separate from the much smaller h2o tend to become easily clogged with organic matter.

A new solution is to run all of the water the a long series of pre and post filters to improve results and retain more of the expensive reverse osmosis filter. The hope is that the oceans water becomes a resource available not just to the wealthy states of the middle east, but to the burgeoning populations of Asia and Africa.

My main question, and one I am not sure of the answer to myself iz where the ability to provide all of this fresh water is ultimately a good thing: it will allow population expansion to keep going at it s current staggering rate, and possibly accelerate. But is that a good thing?  Or should there be some limitation to the number of people on this blue rock?

AAPL The Largest Company in the World?

Apple was, briefly, the largest company in the world. For a short time today, it topped Exxon Mobile to be the largest company by market cap.

Which is pretty interesting, because you know what the largest company is by revenue? Walmart.

More than that, what is the worlds largest computer/tech company by revenue? HP. By a lot.

And finally - where is Apple on the list of largest companies by revenue? 109th. It is behind companies like The US Postal Service, Walgreens, Kroger, Sony, Panasonic etc etc etc...

So why the huge market cap? Well, profits are one thing, growth is another. But really? It's the hype. And at some point, at some point everyone will realize that Apple will lose the battle against Android, that the hardware is really not that amazing, and that really the only things which the company excels in are design and marketing, in which case Porsche should be the world's largest car company.

London Burning

In the wake of a police killing, England is experiencing its worst wave of civil unrest felt in years. This is not the legitimate expression of public frustration with the government or anything like that, this is the pissed off youth of mostly the lower class and immigrant communities lashing out against authority and society.

The police killing was of Mark Duggan, a 29yr old wanted on a number of gun-crime related charges. A special unit of the Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) pulled the cab he was in over, and attempted to arrest him. He resisted, and fired at the police officers, including one bullet which lodged itself in a police radio on an officer's hip. He was shot and killed. While I am often skeptical of the police, this seems like a completely legitimate though unfortunate incident.

In the wake of the killing, which happened in the traditionally crime-centric suburb of Hackney (of Hackney rhyming slang fame), there have been a wave of riots, first across London and now across many of the metropolitan areas of the UK. Ealing, where half of my family is from, and where I have spent much of my time, has been described to be "like a war zone." Luckily, my Aunt and Uncle moved out of the city three years ago.

Thousands of police officers have been called up, and the UK has for the first time authorized the use of plastic bullets against rioters, which as anyone in the US knows in the wake of the Red Sox riots - are less-than-lethal only most of the time.

The riots are driven by pissed of teens and young-adults who did not have many opportunities to start with and who have had even fewer as the recession has dragged on. These are not protests, they are violent and destructive riots, with looting and causing harm the main objectives.
Looters in a convenience store in Hackney


Who Owns America's Debt?

We keep talking about how China owns most of the US debt, etc etc. Turns out that while China is indeed the largest foreign owner of US govt. debt... the biggest owner of US government debt is... the US Government. 


  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

Because the Treasury and Social Security must also hold large amounts of safely invested assets, one of the best and only places for them to keep their money is in US Govt bonds. Which does make sense... but on a different level, the concept that the US govt. keeps issuing debt and 36% of that debt is being bought by local, state, or federal government branches? That just seems like a freaking scam of some kind. With my financial hat on, it makes perfect sense. But my gut reaction? I don't like it. 

Lets hope for all our sakes that the government gets spending under control and that big mountain of paper does not go up in smoke. 

Alien Life

New findings lend further credence to the idea that all life on earth is in fact alien life. At least to a degree.



NASA recently found building blocks of life being delivered by the interstellar bike messengers - meteorites (seriously - I once saw one hope the curb between the Milky Way and Andromeda). The discovery is outlined in a new paper from Dr. Michael Callahan, whose team of researchers closely analyzed samples from 12 different meteorites, using a mass spectrometer and liquid chromatagraph. According to the church, they probably also used Satan's violin. In their samples, they found traces of adenine, guanine, and a variety of molecules known as nucleobase analogs -- including three that are rarely found on Earth. Scientists have long known that meteorites can contain DNA elements, but were unsure whether these materials actually originate in space. The presence of these three molecules, however, suggest that they do, potentially raising new questions about the dawn of life on Earth, and beyond.


Specifically, this could go a long way to explaining the so-called "Star Trek" conundrum: for some reason all sentient beings in the universe are bipeds with almost exactly the same body types as humans, but often with funny ears and faces. If all life were seeded from the same original set of DNA (lets call it "God") then Star Trek can be explained. 


More seriously, this is actually pretty amazing, as it has been speculated about for a long time, but there were many in the Miller–Urey camp who supported a good 'ol primordial soup and some unique Earth Special Sauce as the reason why life started on this planet, and perhaps this planet alone. 


The Origin of Life
These finding show it to be more likely that the building blocks were delivered by meteorite. And if these build blocks are common on meteorites, which they seem to be, then it would suggest that any planet with good physical conditions for life would have a pretty decent chance at making the leap from building blocks to basic organisms, to plants, to animal life. Or at least slime molds. 

US Credit Default Swap (CDS) Curve Inverts

Ok, this may sound a little esoteric, but bear with me.


What this chart means is that until the deal was passed, it cost more to buy insurance against 1 year US Treasuries defaulting than to buy insurance against 5 year treasuries defaulting. This shows just how close traders believed the US was to defaulting on its short term debt because of the debt crises.

Pretty damn interesting to me, though I think it is ridiculous that anyone would think the US would actually let the Treasury default on any bond.

WWII Ended in 1974

Yes, I know my history. And I know that I am 30 years off more or less.

But the interesting thing is this: there were Japanese holdouts who refused to accept that the war was over, or did not know the war was over, who kept fighting into the 1970's. This is pretty amazing, and not something I had heard before. That is 30 years believing that Imperial Japan was still in power, and that you were still in the middle of armed conflict. By 1974 Japan was a rapidly developing modern economy and a close ally of the US, it is pretty amazing to think that there were still soldiers holed up on Pacific islands, prepared to take on the GIs..


Japanese Army stragglers after the end of World War II

1945-1949

  • Captain Sakae Ōba, who led his company of 46 men in guerrilla actions against US troops following the Battle of Saipan, did not surrender until December 1, 1945, three months after the war ended.
  • Major Sei Igawa (井川省) volunteered as a Viet Minh staff officer and commander. Igawa was killed in a battle with French troops in 1946.[1][2]
  • Navy Lieutenant Hideo Horiuchi (堀内秀雄) volunteered as an Indonesian volunteer Army Lieutenant Colonel. Horiuchi was arrested by Dutch troops on August 13, 1946, while his wounds were treated in a village after the battle with Dutch troops.
  • Lieutenant Ei Yamaguchi and his 33 soldiers emerged on Peleliu in late March 1947, attacking the Marine detachment stationed on the island. Reinforcements were sent in, along with a Japanese admiral who was able to convince them the war was over. They finally surrendered in April 1947.[citation needed]
  • On May 12, 1948, the AP reported that two Japanese soldiers surrendered to civilian policemen in Guam. The policemen were Thomas F. Lee of Pawtuckett, Rhode Island and Hall Willis of Brainerd, Minnesota.[citation needed]
  • Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, two IJN machine gunners, surrendered on Iwo Jima on January 6, 1949.[citation needed]

1950s

  • Major Takuo Ishii (石井卓雄) continued to fight as a Viet Minh adviser, staff officer and commander. Ishii was killed in a battle with French troops on May 20, 1950.[3][4]
  • The AP reported on June 27, 1951 that a Japanese petty officer who had surrendered on Anatahan Island in the Marianas two weeks before said that there were 18 other holdouts there. A U.S. Navy plane that had subsequently flown over the island indeed spotted eight or nine Japanese soldiers on a beach waving white flags. However, the Navy remained cautious as the Japanese petty officer had warned that the soldiers were "well-armed and that some of them threatened to kill anyone who tried to give himself up. The leaders profess to believe that the war is still on." The navy dispatched a sea-going tug, the Cocopa, to the island in hopes of picking up some or all of the soldiers without incident. The Japanese occupation of the island inspired a movie.
  • Private 1st Class Yūichi Akatsu continued to fight on Lubang Island from 1944 until surrendering in the Philippine village of Looc on March 1950.[5]
  • Corporal Shōichi Shimada (島田庄一) continued to fight on Lubang until he was killed in a clash with Philippine soldiers in May 1954.[6]
  • Lieutenant Kikuo Tanimoto volunteered as a Viet Minh adviser and commander. Tanimoto returned to Japan in 1954, after Vietnamese Independence.

1960s

  • Private Bunzō Minagawa held out from 1944 until May 1960 on Guam.[7]
  • Sergeant Tadashi Itō, Minagawa's superior, surrendered days later, May 23, 1960 on Guam.[8]

1970s

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda
  • Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, who served under Ito, was captured on Guam in January 1972.[9]
  • Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka held out with Onoda for 28 years until he was killed in a gunbattle with Philippine police in October 1972.[10]
  • Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who held out from December 1944 until March 1974 on Lubang Island in the Philippines with Akatsu, Shimada and Kozuka, was relieved of duty by his former commanding officer in March 1974.[11]
  • Private Teruo Nakamura (Amis: Attun Palalin) was discovered by the Indonesian Air Force onMorotai, and surrendered to a search patrol on December 18, 1974.[12]

1980s

  • Captain Fumio Nakahira held out until April 1980 before being discovered at Mt. Halcon. He is considered[by whom?] the last Japanese holdout to be found.
  • Two ex-Japanese Army soldiers: Kiyoaki Tanaka and Shigeyuki Hashimoto went on to fight with the Malaysian Communist Party (Malaysian Communist Party), in Southern Thailand. The two were part of a group of ex-Japanese Army soldiers and civilians fighting with the MPAJA.[clarification needed]Though they were former WWII veterans, they were not considered holdouts, but rather former Japanese soldiers who went on to fight for another faction and never returned home.[13]