Saturday, May 31, 2008

Robotic Arm

You've got to watch what Dean Kaman (Segway inventor) has developed now. This robotic arm is incredible in what it can do. This seems worlds ahead of anything I've ever seen.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Stock Buy

I made my first trade in 2 or 3 months when I bought some PRXI Premier Exhibitions yesterday. They're a small company and it's a small buy for me. The specialize in museum-style exhibitions that travel from city to city - notably the Titanic exhibition and the controversial Bodies exhibition that shows disected human anatomy. Discover magazine did an article on the Bodies exhibition and I was amazed at some of the photos in the article.

The sourcing of the specimens from a Chinese teaching hospital is at the center of the controversy with the company. I think this is why stock is down along with high expenses in the most recent quarter.

From a business standpoint, I like the numbers a lot and can see continued growth in shows of this kind. ROE is at 27%, revenue growth is crazy, up to $61 million 2/08 vs. 6.9million at 2/09. The multilple on the stock is only PE of 12 right now. I guess companies like this have to continue to build interesting exhibits that will attract visitors - kindof like TV or movie companies, but it doesn't look particularly expensive right now.

I'm counting on their ability to reign in costs which are growing faster than revs and eating into profits in recent quarter. Their growth rate will help them, but they've gotta keep eye on profitability. From the recent transcript it sounds like they're experiencing some growth pains as they transition more company owned venues and increased/more professional staff.

The new liquid gold

Used cooking oil is selling for $2.50 per gallon. Restaurant thefts on the rise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


It's been a long depressing run for stocks - for at least the past 9 months or so. Despite losing money, I find I've been bored with investments over the past couple months, and I wonder if that means better things are ready to come?

I've noticed in the past that if I'm too interested in what's happening that it's not good. I wonder if being bored with events means the contrary?

I'm a little gun shy due to several picks I've made performing poorly in the downturn, but there are signs of life - or at least stabilization - in the kinds of stocks I like to invest in.

Discover Environment Newsletter

Discover's Environmental Newsletter had a couple interesting articles today.

A solution to water shortage problems you're hearing about across the country.

A solution for heavy polluting small engines. Apparently one 2-stroke engine creates the same amount of pollution as 30-50 4-stroke engines like we have in cars.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Asimov - The Last Question

I'm not much of a fiction reader, but Isaac Asimov was one of my favorites when I was growing up. Apparently he felt this short story was his best. I read Asimov's The Last Question a few weeks ago and thought it was well worth passing on.

3 day weekend

Over the weekend I got to visit with my Dad, Grandma, nephews, and brother/sister in law. Mostly I was entertainment for my nephew Jay though (about 5yr old).

- played with legos, building spaceships and spaceports.
- played baseball.
- watered Dad's flowers
- played in the sand / made a bunch of mud
- "painted" (Jay calls it painting when we put the barbecue sauce on the hamburgers.
- raced, but as slow as we could if that makes any sense.
- watched Indy and NASCAR (his favorite driver Jeff Gordon finished 4th)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Restaurant name

I was thinking that a good name for Mexi-talian restaurant should be called "Que Pasta"

Google Doodle

I thought these variations on the Google logo designed by school students were pretty cool. Check them out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

OK Go - Here It Goes Again

I came across this video on YouTube and had to post. I first saw it a long while ago, but it's still a fun watch. It's one of the more creative music videos I've seen.

I've gotta make a music video at some point before I go.

OK Go - Here It Goes Again

Monday, May 19, 2008


We had a departmental review at work, and one of the things we got burned on was measurement. Now I'm a numbers guy and have as many metrics as the next guy, but it seems to me there's alot about what I do at work that isn't necessarily measurable, at least given metrics I can get at.

The issue to me is that if I reduce my work to things that I can measure, I think it leaves out a lot of worthwhile activities. Specific activities are measurable, like a lot of lead generation, delivery, and sell-through - I can track results from that. But how do you measure/place a value on less well defined activities? What's the value of all these agent meetings and consultations we've been having? How do you track the value of a 4 hour meeting without it being overwhelmed by all the other things that happen in the business over the course of a year? It seems worthwhile, and attendees say we have some of the better meetings they've been to - but can I measure the value of all the work? I'm not sure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

China Earthquake

I was reading a NYTimes article about the recent major earthquake in China. The article mentioned significant threat of flooding due to landslides and blocked waterways.

I looked online for more information and came across this before/after river photo. We're not talking about a small clog in a waterway - the river is flat-out gone.

And look at these wedding photos from right before/after the quake - very lucky they weren't in the church.

Here are some photos of the devestation and rescue efforts. Some buildings were literally reduced to gravel.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Interesting view of India by a traveller

As many are aware, I'm invested in a couple IT stocks with their core operations in India Cognizant Tech and Infosys), however I don't know much about the country other than what I occasionally read in newspaper articles or the random book. Much of what I read indicates observers sees India as considerably more limited in economic potential than China due to government controls and issues with infrastructure.

This blog by Derek Sivers gives a different view that I found particularly interesting - and different from many observations I've heard. India is making do, but in a different way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2 players, 1 guitar

I'd never seen two people play the same guitar and thought this was pretty cool

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Solar Eclipse

See this astronomy pic of the day from a few days ago. It's a solar eclipse in Antartica.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Aerial Planting

I hadn't heard of this. Planting the rice fields by plane.

During planting season, usually from late April to mid-May, many pilots work 15-hour days, seven days a week, strafing hundreds of flooded acres per day. A busy rice flier might make as many as 100 takeoffs and landings a day along narrow dirt airstrips cut between paddies.

Auctions at storage units

Mortgage strains lead to folks loosing their stuff when they can't pay the storage bills.

An interesting observation in the story:

Mr. Grossman cut locks on 87 units in March but, as many people paid at the last minute, ended up auctioning only 21 of them in April. Both numbers were down from a year ago, he said, suggesting “the worst is behind us.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why is intelligence as rare as it is?

In the lab, intelligence is shown to often cause a decrease in survivability. See this article from the NYTimes: "Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter isn't always better."

Forming neuron connections may cause harmful side effects. It is also possible that genes that allow learning to develop faster and last longer may cause other changes.

Friday, May 2, 2008

US Manufacturing output -surprise to me.

It's always enlightening when an unchallenged assumption I hold about the world is found to be wrong. It creates one of those moments when you go "hmmmm".

In this case I was reading this op-ed in the New York Times by David Brooks titled "The Cognitive Revolution" when I came across this quote:

the U.S.’s share of global manufacturing output has actually increased slightly since 1980.

I read that and I paused... That can't possibly be right. Everybody just "knows" US manufacturing is dying.

So of course I started googling around and found this link reporting that real value added manufacturing in the US is at 22.4% of the world output - slightly higher than it was a decade ago. Interesting. The same paper points out however that while manufacturing output has continued to increase, manufacturing employment has continued to fall due in part to efficiency gains and technology. It takes less people to produce more stuff.

The article is really worth a read. At least I found it helpful.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tater Tots

I was at work the other day and got to wondering how Tater Tots were made. (They ordered Pizza Hut pizza delivered for the department, and it came with some Cheesy Tater Tots as a side.)

Anyhow, I got to thinking that I probably couldn't make a Tater Tot myself. I figured if I diced up a bunch of potatoes, pressed them together, and tried to fry them that I'd just end up with a mess of a bunch of little potato flakes that wouldn't hold form.

So I got to looking and here's how they recommend making Tater Tots. It sounds like to make them you've got to boil the potatoes a bit in advance, shred them, mix in a little flour, and then pack them into shape before dropping in the cooking oil.

And while you're at it, check out Darth Tater