Archive for the 'Opinion' category

The global Pool of Money

February 23, 2009 12:02 am

If you haven’t heard the two NPR stories on the current economic crisis yet, it’s worth going out to listen at The Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show About the Economy (or read through the two transcripts). After listening to the first one, I was inspired to try to illustrate the whole thing and sketched this down in about 45 minutes or so:


Part of the meltdown was the ARM mortgage reset:


At the beginning, the income covers the payment. At the reset, the payment becomes bigger (unfortunately), the income is the same and doesn’t cover the payment. Because of higher home value, a loan can be taken out to cover the gap in payment. Over time that loan becomes pure debt. When there is no more of the loan left, the only way out is selling the house. At that point, the value of the house has dropped and is below the amount of the mortgage. In addition there’s now another pile of debt to pay off. The result: great Pain.

I’ve since then learned that someone did a much better job of visualizing the story, using animation and wonderful design. That someone is Jonathan Jarvis, and the illustration is at Worth seeing.

The one thing that I don’t think anybody is shining a light on, however, is this part of my own drawing:


If indeed the whole thing starts with the Global Pool of Money doubling in about six years, and that money was “looking” for a safe return of three to five percent, then isn’t the crisis just as much to blame on what caused the doubling of the Pool? According to the NPR show transcript (PDF)

How’s the world get twice as much money to invest?  Lots of
things happened, but the main headline is all sorts of poor countries became kind of
rich making TVs and selling us oil: China, India, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia. Made a lot
of money and banked it. China, for example, has over a trillion dollars in its central
bank, and there are office buildings in Beijing filled with math geniuses-real math
geniuses-looking for a place to invest it.  And the world was not ready for all this
money. There’s twice as much money looking for investments, but there are not
twice as many good investments.

The keywords here are “making TVs and selling us oil”. TVs of course stand for everything that no longer is made in the U.S.: toys, computers, radios, cars, you name it. So not only did the “highly inventive” American banking system contribute to the collapse, regular consumers actually kicked the whole thing off, in a way, with an enormous appetite for cheap consumer goods. Food for thought, I would say.

I’d like NPR to do a story on that doubling of the global Pool of Money. Would go right with my little bent for “voluntary simplicity”, which I haven’t really written about in a long time. If we all weren’t chasing the dream of bigger – faster – more, maybe we wouldn’t be hurting so much right now. Maybe we’ll learn about the value of “enough”. Check out the links in the sidebar for plenty of reading on the subject of “enough” and “voluntary simplicity”. It’s something I struggle with every day.

HP TouchSmart software in CES 2009 keynote

January 7, 2009 9:49 pm

I just caught the replay of the CES keynote by Steve Ballmer. I think this is the first time ever that I’ve seen Microsoft allow non-Microsoft software to be shown in a keynote product video. I was blown away to see the HP TouchSmart software actually shown and interacted with instead of the Windows Desktop. Thank you, Microsoft!

Steven Sinofsky’s Vista UAC discussion at PDC 2008

November 14, 2008 10:36 am

One thing I haven’t written about yet is my impression of a few moments in Steven Sinofsky’s PDC 2008 keynote. It was when he talked about User Account Control. UAC was not well received when it was put in Vista, to put it mildly.

At around 45 minutes in the keynote, Steven mentions UAC and, as far as I can tell, pauses deliberately for a second or two to get an audience reaction. If you weren’t in the room at the time, it’s hard to tell, but there was a collective groan and some chuckling at that point.

I think it’s the closest attempt at trying to apologize for a design blunder I’ve ever seen Microsoft make, albeit without words. I found it to be a brave move for someone like Steven to make, and I wager that it put a more human face on the large, often faceless corporation that is Microsoft. It certainly did for me.

If nothing else it gave me the impression that there is someone at the helm of Windows development who is not afraid of acknowledging when things go wrong and who will try to make up for it. I find that very refreshing.

Exemplary customer service at JanSport

September 15, 2008 6:28 pm

This is an example of how customer service is done right.

We bought a JanSport backpack three years ago or so for use at school. A few days ago a buckle broke, so I contacted JanSport via their customer service web page. I explained the situation of the buckle breaking and not having a receipt and asked if that would be a problem if I’d like to have a repair done. I got a very friendly reply by email the day after, telling me the service center would send me a new buckle if I just gave them my shipping address. I replied back with my address, but also talking about how I wasn’t sure how to thread the buckle back on, could they include some instructions, please.

Well, today I got the buckle with a handwritten note, telling me how to put the buckle back. Not only that, but the buckle in the package had two pieces of webbing threaded through, held together with paperclips to show me how to thread properly. Brilliant!


Thank you JanSport for showing that customer service still exists in this day and age of outsourcing and automation!