Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Blues

Here's a list of blues cliches. While I'm a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan, otherwise I'm not big into blues, but these "rules of blues" are pretty good.

A sample:

Make your own Blues name Starter Kit: a. name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) b. first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Melon, Kiwi, etc.) c. last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lime Jefferson, Jackleg Lemon Johnson or Cripple Kiwi Fillmore, etc. (Well, maybe not "Kiwi.")

My blues name will here-to-for be "Achy Grape Grant"

Hand Art and Pennies

Look at these. Impressive artwork incorporating a hand in every image. It took me a while to figure out how it was done on a couple.

And if you ever have some free time and a lot of pennies lying around, you might give this a try. I almost can't believe it can be built. Check out this tower. Or this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Barack Obama

I try to keep political issues off this board, but I feel compelled to post that I've made up my mind to support Barack Obama's presidential campaign and have even done something I've never done before - donated money in support.

Simply put, he inspires me - and even though he's young and doesn't have the experience of some candidates - I think we need to give a visionary like him a chance. There's an upside with Barack that I can't see in the other candidates.

Doodle

This Doodle page is kindof fun. Different things you draw will have different physics associated.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Civil War timeline

Learning something new: I was looking at the timeline from this Civil War website and learned that Abraham Lincoln was shot only 4 days after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox - and that many confederate forces didn't surrender until after Lincoln had died.

Note this final photo of Lincoln taken the day he was shot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Arkansas Trip

Had a business trip to Arkansas over the past several days. I visited Northwest Arkansas for the first time - Fayetteville /Bentonville area.

It's pretty country up there - actually kindof odd geography to encounter mountains and rocky cliffs after driving for so long through flat, fairly featureless, farm country. There are some striking views on the drive up I-540. I was up there for a meeting on Monday and it started sleeting. I got out of town just in time. I understand they closed the interstate for about 7 hours shortly after I left town. Because of the terrain there are lots of elevated bridges that will ice quickly when temperatures drop. I passed a wreck of about 4-5 cars on my way south on a particularly long and inclined bridge that backed up traffic considerably in the opposite direction.

Some other things about the trip
- On Sunday I arrived in Little Rock at about 7:00. The hotel front door was locked. I had to call the hotel on the cell phone to let me in. I then went to get something to eat and two of the restaurants I tried to stop at had already locked their doors before 8:00 on a Sunday night. Very odd evening.
- I get back to the hotel Monday night and my room card doesn't work. I was beginning to get the feeling they didn't want me there.
- I passed a "Toad Suck Park" somewhere between Little Rock and NW Arkansas. If I had time I would've stopped just to have said I was there. Maybe bought a T-Shirt.
- I think I passed a dead chicken on the side of the interstate. I can't say I've ever done that either.
- My meals were pretty lame. Sunday: Taco Bell. Monday: McDonalds and Papa Johns. Tuesday: Conoco. The Conoco might've been the best food of the entire bunch - I love those gas station potato wedges. And those cookies at the Double Tree were pretty good too.

Glad to be home now though. That's a lot of driving.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Insurance searches on google

I work as a market analyst in the insurance industry, and found this information about web searches from Google Trends to be interesting regarding car and home insurance shopping search in the US on the web.

Trend history for searches "car insurance" and "home insurance"

In "Car Insurance"
- Note the consistent decline in searches in the last 3-4 months of every year for the past 4 years.
- overall search volume in 2007 seems a bit lower than 2004 to 2006 - this would be consistent with the feeling in the market in 2007 that maybe there's not as much shopping going on, and would confirm suspicions that there's not as much organic shopping going on when there's not much rate activity happening. It's a "soft market" right now.
- July/August seems to consistently see a little spike in searches - correlates with high production months for major insurers.

- note far lower volume of "home insurance" searches, and less degree of seasonality (although home insurance searches seem to fall off the last few months of the year like auto.

Anyhow, I know this is off topic for this blog, but I was looking at this for work and it seemed pretty interesting to me, thought it might be for the readers here also.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Marcus Aurelius for the day

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 A.D., and can probably be called a philosopher king. I found some of his surviving writings in his "Meditations" to be compelling when I read them a month or so ago. I plan to post some of my favorite quotes over time. It seems much of the work consisted of little pep talks to himself to encourage himself to be the best Roman he could be.

2.4 Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.

and perhaps my favorite quote from the collection:
7.3 … But remembering that our own worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.

Quotes are from Marcus Aurelius "Meditations" (Gregory Hayes Translation)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My wife's new website

Check out my wife's new website to help support her writing career. I think the look is great.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Heart grown in lab

Now this is cool. I just read this article about researchers who have successfully grown a rat heart in the lab, and were even able to get it to pump blood, albeit at a diminished rate.

Basically it sounds like they took an existing heart from a dead animal, and removed all the cells. From the remaining "mold" the injected new cells and the new cells took hold to the structure and started growing.

Here's the story from AP. Here's a more detailed NYTimes article.

Maybe lab grown replacement organs are not that far off?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

IT Services - Infosys conference call transcript

Obviously based on the large IT services exposure I have in companies like Cognizant CTSH and Infosys INFY, I like to keep track at what management is saying about business conditions.

A transcript of Infosys's recent conference call is here courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

I try not to read with rose-colored glasses, but the statements from Infosys indicate a solid outlook for the future. An area of concern with analysts is that some customer's budget process has been delayed due to macroeconomic concerns, but in the cases where budgeting decisions are final Infosys sees strong demand going into 2008, including in troubled sectors like banking. The ROI for IT services seems strong and companies seem to continue to be willing to spend more in that area.

I guess overall I'm not seeing stock price action in the group that is consistent with the business outlook provided by Infosys. I've been wrong on these stocks so far, but I'm going to stick with them - perhaps looking to add more.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Added to Garmin

Quick Note: I must be an idiot the way the market's behaving and concerns with consumer spending, but I added a bit to Garmin GRMN today.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pals

Hey all, sorry for the lack of posts this week. I've been busy at work and traveling in Eastern Tennessee.

In Tri-Cities I did get to visit the ugliest drive thru restaurant I've ever seen - called Pals Sudden Service. Yes, it looks like that photo. My wife loves the food there and makes a point to stop when she's over there. A colleague of mine says he had a buddy who did a research paper studying Pals processes - that they're known as one of the most efficient operations in the business. So needless to say, we had to give it a try before we headed back to Nashville.

Verdict: I had a burger, fries and shake. Overall, decent fast food, but nothing special like I was hoping. I'll have to touch base with my wife and find out what her favorites are they and try them next time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ampersand

I haven't checked this out, but apparently the figure "&" used to be considered part of the English alphabet. According to this Wikipedia post back in the 1800s it apparently was pronounced "and per se and" and would've constituted a 27th letter of the alphabet. (Note there's no citation for this claim). Gradually over time the phrase "and per se and" became shortened to what we now call the ampersand.

It was apparently ordered after the "Z" of the alphabet, and in usage was considered a symbol that could stand on it's own, much like the letters "A" and "I" could stand on their own.

Anybody ever heard of this?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Of Tigers and Piglets

Click here

Friday, January 4, 2008

A soldiers final post

Read this final blog post of a soldier, Andrew Olmsted recently killed in Iraq. He left this message to be posted in the event of his death.

Man survives 47 story fall

I'd never heard of such a thing, but here's the story of a window washer who survived a 47 story fall.

They're still putting him back together, but doctors are optimistic that he'll eventually walk again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Check out a website I just setup

I took the opportunity over the holidays to build a website to help folks building a home recording studio. I'm interested to see if I can generate some traffic and maybe some revenues.

Here it is

A band called Florez

My wife forwarded me a link to a band called Florez. Apparently they're from Nashville. My wife watches Survivior and came across them because one of the band is on the show.

They've got an acoustic rock thing going that I find pretty cool. Here's a link to their page.

And happy new year to everyone too!