Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tips to visit Silicon Valley and San Francisco

My investments are quietly tracking to prediction, I keep being busy, and still no inspiration to write about financial markets. My dear audience will have to bear with another off-topic article, also written in long flights while cris-crossing the U.S. I hope that since I will be talking about Silicon Valley and its companies, it would still catch a little of the attention of the people interested in investing in those companies.

I recently had a business trip to California. About the southern leg, I was so busy that I was barely able to squeeze a few hours to go to any touristic destination, and by chance it happened to be "Inspiration Point" in Corona Del Mar. That's quite an awesome place to watch a sunset. There I swam for the first time in the waters of the Pacific ocean, despite my friends' words of caution against swimming there without protection for the supposedly too cold water, but several months of adaptation to the really cold Chicago winter made it merely refreshing and relaxing after a busy day.

Anyway, I also had to go to the "Bay Area", and had the whole Sunday to go around. The first thing that really impressed me is how nice and cool the weather is all along the South Bay, and my friends who live up to Mountain View tell me that it is nice and cool year round, that only in San José and Silicon Valley itself it may get hot a few days in the summer, but that the South Bay area is cool all the time.

My businesses were substantially closer to the San José International Airport than to the San Francisco International, but since I am attracted to places with History and personality, I chose to go to the SFO instead. There is a very nice Creative Commons picture of the SFO passenger terminals by "druchoy" at flickr that I had seen a while ago,
SFO at night

that then I had the chance to see in real life from the plane when I arrived, at night, and with the benefit of more context. Anyway, my arrival to San Francisco couldn't be more auspicious, not only could I see the airport at night in full splendor, I was already sick of the warm/hot southern California weather and the lack of rain, but just arriving, there was a drizzle, so, I got welcomed by the city with everything I was yearning for: an uplifting aerial view of the city and Bay, cool/cold and humid weather.

In my initial plan, I wasn't going to rent a car, so, I took public transportation, but discovered that it is a rather tedious sequence of transfers to get to where I was going: You must take the train in the terminal that will take you to the Bart train, then you must take the Bart train in the direction of the city, once you are in San Bruno then transfer to a train in the opposite direction towards Millbrae... to then finally wait for the Caltrain and still spend about an hour without internet until you finally arrive to Mountain View; so, if you ever go through the SFO to Silicon Valley, rent a car!.

To me, the whole area between Tiburón and San José (Tiburón, Sausalito, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, ..., Palo Alto (where the Stanford University is), Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara and San José), feels like a very large University: The people is young, cultured, informal, nice to talk to, the radio plays eclectic music, shops are hip, and things are expensive, in all, an absolutely lovely place, although how expensive life is in the region really put me off. Another thing is that almost everybody uses Apple for computers and players, and it is nice that, at least in "Castro Street" in Mountain View, you have good free wi-fi courtesy of Google.

In case you are wondering, yes, I went to the Googleplex, it was within walking distance to where I was staying, and yes, I went walking there. The problem is that I didn't get past the receptionist, because when I arrived —on time!— to meet my partners, our business with Google was already done, so, I didn't get to know much about the place. When all of us were walking to the car in the visitors parking lot, I couldn't help but to notice how full it was, that there was a valet parking, an African American who sits below a round white tent with the Google colors. Ah!, and there were interesting license plate decorations, like a frame that said "Proud member of Pixar Animation Studios". On my insistence, we took a quick detour and went to AMD. The difference of atmosphere was more than noticeable, among other things the visitor lot was practically empty. Anyway, perhaps we arrived just at lunch time: I really wanted to see if I could get inside, so, I concocted a very goofy excuse: I presented myself to the receptionist as an investor who wanted to talk with someone in Investor Relations, naturally, the woman didn't do anything but tell me that it was lunch time and most people was out; so, I used and even more laughable "plan B": I told her that I was also an Engineer interested in working for the company, if someone from Human Resources could talk to me; then she said "Oh!, give me a minute and I will give you the telephone number of Human Resources so that you can set up an appointment". While she was doing that, I stared at the Ferrari formula 1 that they have at the entrance; the red really makes contrast with all the AMD Green in the building. By the way, I have always loved F1, but I have never seen up close a F1 car, it surprised me how small they are; I am not even 6 feet tall and still it seems it would be difficult for me to get into such small cockpit. On our way to San José, we went by the 101 to a place that has large buildings of Yahoo, WebEx, Intel, and Sun Microsystems. This large and beautiful Webex building set me off to think about what other products Webex makes, because it is unfathomable for me that a mediocre piece of junk used for remote collaboration has made so much money, leading me to think that or their customers are stupid, or the company somehow exploits the system; about the whole game of selling "puffware", about how startups ceased to be incubators of game-changing technologies to become hustlers that want to become as sexy a target for acquisition as possible; about the rat race of people living beyond their means in the opulence I was seeing... I will finish the thought in a minute.

By this time, I had already gone to the SFO to rent a car and driven back to Mountain View. You don't even need a GPS to go around the place, there is a freeway, the 101, that goes all along the South Bay, and if you don't want to drive freeways to get to know the place, you can drive along "El Camino Real", it is about 50% and 100% slower, with traffic lights, but I think the drive along "El Camino" is so scenic and nice to see the trees and shops, that it may even be worth it. You can open your window and breathe the air of the place, the freeway would be too noisy.

My friends wanted to go places like Larry Ellison's mansion, but I didn't feel inclined to do that, so, we split and I left with an old friend of mine who studies at Stanford to get to know San Francisco. It was Sunday in the late afternoon. I drove in "El Camino" for as long as she let me, but since we wanted to cross the Golden Gate before sunset, I took the 101. It is beautiful just before the bridge, there is a nice park, and after the bridge, the Golden Gate Vista Point. I went there not looking for photographs, but I must say that one hour before sunset, the view from there is spectacular: At the right, the Golden Gate bridge, below, the deep blue of the Bay waters, at the top, the light blue of the sky, and in the middle, a bright Yellow strip, the outline of San Francisco with its world-renowned skyscrapers. To improve upon perfection, we had dinner right on the shores of the bay in a restaurant in Sausalito, from where we could see the lights of the houses in Berkeley and Oakland already lit for the evening.

Now, I advise to arrive to San Francisco on Sunday at noon or so. Since typically the day you arrive to a city you don't do much in the way of businesses, you may go through the i80 to the island of Yerba Buena, and go around Treasure Island before continuing to Berkeley, to see the University, to then take the Richmond-San Rafael bridge (i580), and drive through the "Paradise Drive" (very winding road and not so well maintained, but still scenic) until you get to Tiburón or Sausalito, and from there, Vista Point, cross the Golden Gate, and enjoy nightlife in San Francisco, that is, the opposite direction of what I did. Doing this, you will have the rest of the week to hang around in Silicon Valley, go to Stanford, and do whatever your business may be.

After I left, while in the plane, I went on to meditate about all the people I met in my trip, the significance of technology for the economy of the region, and the whole region itself. It occurred to me that the people and companies based in there better be extraordinarily productive, because in almost any other place it would be way cheaper to do whatever it is they do, I was thinking of my friend who just bought a minuscule apartment for half a million and needs to keep paying her mortgage, but she is working on one of these startups that has just been acquired and the new owners set basically unrealistic revenue and profit schedules which mean that all the original employees are working mad hours; if they succeed, they just survive, if they don't, though luck, some more roadkills of the frenetic spin of mergers and acquisitions; unfortunately, it is a rat's race in which nothing of substance matters but the impression you cause on prospective buyers. I fear that very soon places in China and other countries that produce legions of excellent engineers are going to be overtaking Silicon Valley in innovation, it just doesn't make sense to develop an innovation there if it costs 20 times or more what it would cost to do it somewhere else, it makes me think whether I went there at the beginning of the decline.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The last post about Obama generated an intense interchange about public policies. This is a subject I don't want to write about [1], but I fear that I must, to provide adequate support to opinions that I hold that are not conventional.

I am a firm believer that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, therefore my approach to politics is to support minimization of government and maximization of the power of individuals and thus can claim to be Libertarian. But, just like Democracy is not a pack of wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for dinner in an election by simple majority, the complete absence of coordination is not Liberty but the law of the jungle. Why am I so skeptical of Government?: Because Truth is elusive and relative, it is morally objectionable to impose one's Truth to others that don't share the same beliefs. There is some people that think that the solution, then, is to homogenize societies: All that share the same beliefs should segregate themselves from the rest; but then I have a strong objection against that principle: If every human life is valuable, then it should be that every one has something unique, and the celebration of that uniqueness must be among the most "humane" of pursuits. Furthermore, being a scientific/engineer myself, I clearly see how the creativity to crack mathematical incognitas or pose models of the Universe, and the creativity for invention are very directly correlated to independent thinking, that is, respect and promotion of doing the same thing differently until an objectively better way is found. Even more amazing, Nature has produced the most exquisitely diverse biological mechanisms by randomly mixing and matching genes (sexual recombination) and managing to actually benefit from predominantly (when seen individually) destructive errors in gene copying (mutations); that is, the uniqueness of combinations of genes is enough for Nature to do wonders, and errors are not only tolerated, but serve the positive function of "supercharging" the engine of diversity. On a final note about this subject, Evolution through Natural Selection does not have the slightest characters of hypothetical or unproven for me; I have done research on Artificial Intelligence (that is, how to help computers "learn") using so called "genetic algorithms", which are systems that begin by proposing multitudes of stupid hyphotesis, generated randomly, and have them compete for a chance to "reproduce" by combining their qualities with the qualities of other hypothesis in successive generations, that is, imitating Nature's Evolution through Natural Selection; not just "learning" actually happen, but Genetic Alogrithms as those used by John Koza has gotten to the point to generate inventions that have been patented. So, evolution through natural selection is actually a proven, quantifiable engineering technique based on the promotion of diversity; it turns out that Diversity is good not just in the Moral arena, but also in some practical matters.

What I mean by "classic" libertarianism, as codified in the U.S. Constitution + Bill of Rights, has always been for me the the Paradigm, but one must question whether the world has become qualitatively different in the last 50 years, 200+ after the framework was designed, so as to grant some updates to the classical framework. Must of "classic" Libertarianism assumes that individuals may face the consequences of their actions without disturbing other individuals. Today, the individuals are so interconnected, that it is virtually impossible to leave everyone on their own. In the last post, there was criticism of my stance that the only sensible approach towards health is universal, free of charge (meaning paid by the whole of society), care. Some have told me: "What about the drug abusers?, Why am I going to pay for their lack of responsibility towards themselves?" this is a good example: In principle, we should let the people who didn't have the restraint to not become addicts on their own, it is not our fault their problems, so, at first approximation, there is no justification to force responsible people to pay the expenses created by irresponsible people. The problem is that whether the responsible people wants it or not, indirectly or directly they end up "paying the bill", the reason, again, is that the world is too much interconnected. An opportunity to paraphrase JFK's words: A society that is not able to help the many who are poor [ stupid, irresponsible, crippled ] can not the save the few who are rich [ smart, resonsible, healthy ]. I come from a country where rich, competent people thought that they could segregate themselves from the poverty and misery around. For a while that's possible, but it becomes increasingly difficult, until such a system collapses under its own weight. Larger countries may think that they can protect their wealth from the misery that prevails in the rest of the world, but that is just not possible, it just takes longer for the collapse to happen, and when it happens, it usually ends up worse than what it would be had the adaptation began earlier. A system of health care primarily supplied through private institutions funded by private insurance naturally decays into a system for the management of disease, I mean: A system where disease is the primary generator of treatment business; universal, free care leads to see disease as a problem to be rooted out, hence a much more effective focus on prevention than treatment. I wonder what's the matter that people who would readily admit that just like it doesn't make much sense to have private courthouses and private judges (although market forces may help in Law Interpretation, the primary system for Law Interpretation must be the universal, free provided by the State [2]), can't understand so readily that the market forces generate distortions on public health, thus the primary means should be State-supplied. While I am at it, ditto for Education. In general, these three primary services, together with Defense, work best while their primary supplier is the State, given the interconnectedness of societies, private offerings in these areas can't be infinitely superior to the public, free offerings, therefore, very quickly the best of private offerings reach a quality limit that can only be improved by the improvement of the public offerings.

Regarding NAFTA, it seems nobody understood the subtlety that while I am all for it, at the same time have objections. Regarding free trade with Mexico, I have the objection that the impairment between the incomplete freedoms that Mexican workers enjoy and much better freedoms the U.S. workers enjoy mean that it is easier for companies to go exploit Mexican workers, thus, the exercise of freedoms to trade erodes the freedoms of workers in the U.S. while strengthening the exploitative system in Mexico. As a libertarian concerned with maximizing overall freedoms, the tradeoff is anything but evidently positive. The solution here is to improve the freedoms of Mexican workers. Do you see? Liberty's price is eternal vigilance, the smart libertarian defends liberty when the attacks are incipient, it is easier and cheaper to defend one's liberties by fighting the attacks on other people's liberties: Other people's liberties are the firewall that would protect our own. Words attributed to Martin Niemöller very succinctly describe the collapse of freedoms:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Going back to my departure with classical libertarianism, the world is so densely interconnected that the only sensible approach is to provide assistance to those that either by irresponsibility, stupidity or sheer incapacity can't help themselves. Should that "help" be imposed?: No.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that my principled approach actually works more efficiently in the real world. Take for instance drug addiction: The "classical" libertarianism prescribes an approach of "leave alone the abuser", because the drug abuse does not directly infringe on any of the liberties of non-abusers. Nevertheless leaving the drug addicts on their own lead to nasty problems, so, almost all countries fight addiction, and since one of the sources of addictions is the availability of drugs, enormous amounts of efforts are spent in fighting their availability (a mild form of imposing "help"). Furthermore, some countries actually criminalize drug addiction (meaning that some countries impose criminal penalties to activities inherent of addiction), another form of imposed help. But these impositions are as expensive as ineffective. On the other hand, it is proven that spending efforts into helping addicts to voluntarily get out of the vicious cycle of addiction is both effective and efficient. I prefer the apparent contradiction of calling myself libertarian and still support programs that help people deal with the consequences of their own irresponsibility than the hypocrisy of calling myself "libertarian" and support the criminalization of fundamentally private activities.

Classical libertarianism suggest that the first step towards helping with the problem is to strengthen individual responsibility. How is it possible to improve responsibility if the punishment for irresponsibility is diluted? that's a valid objection, just that drug addicts become a problem for themselves at the same time they become a problem for everyone else. I have somewhat concrete ideas about how to strengthen the instincts of responsibility, they had to do with breaking legal systems that "baby" people, excessive and abusive intromission of government into people's lives, this, in turn, goes to the heart of why this country turned into a litigious society, a problem that was mischaracterized as something to solve within the realm of Health Care Reform; but I won't succumb as usual to the temptation to write an article about something like infantilizing laws, irresponsible citizenry, and societal litigiousness inside an article about something like Liberties.

The war of ideologies already finished, Liberty won, hands down. There is universal evidence that the support and promotion of the value of uniqueness is the engine of progress. Since all other ideologies were defeated, the task of this generation is to perfect the classical model of liberties, and I suggest to begin with adaptations to the qualitative differences derived by the vastly superior degree of interconnectedness of contemporary world. It pleases me that the friendly politician I met several years ago, Barack Obama, who for some people appears to be friendly to even more government intromission, in reality strikes me as both a libertarian and a pragmatist, is making merits to become the most representative figure in this generation to resume the greatest tradition of this country: To have served at times as the beacon of Liberty for the rest of the world.

[ 1 ] The reason why I don't want to talk about this subject is because it is not suitable for the rushes of blog reading even if I were to do the work to document the thesis adequately. Not only that, I have the great disadvantage of it being improper of me to praise or criticize any concrete example of public policy of my host country

[ 2 ] About my usage of the word "State" for U.S. readers: In the U.S., "State" almost always refer to the non-federal, state-level; and "Government" is used in place for the concept of State, but the correct meaning of government is almost synonymous with the executive branch of what here is called "Governement". I know that it is impractical to use the proper meanings when talking about politics of the U.S. because then it becomes tedious to qualify issues as State-level or Federal level, but since I am not talking about U.S. policies, I use the proper meanings.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A minute and a half with Barack Obama years afterward

I was reading yesterday the fellow blogger Marc Andreessen's [ tongue in cheek gesture :-) he is the co-founder of Netscape ] article "An hour and a half with Barack Obama", and I thought that I could do a better job [ really ]. It happens that I haven't donated him $10,000 nor even a single dollar, I even declined his request to help him hand out a few flyers, and probably we spoke less than a minute and a half total, but boy, I have great things to say about those ~90 seconds and the successive years.

It should have been the Fall of 2003 the day I met Barack Obama, but just like Andreessen begins his article with disclaimers, before relating to you this story, I need to say a few disclaimers of my own: I have been as opinionated in Politics as I am in technical matters, the problem is that my effectiveness as a political organizer led to my blacklisting by the incipient communist regime in my home country and my eventual departure, thus, being just a guest in the USA, I try not to discuss its policies nor its politics. After a long thought about it, I concluded that I can still relate my encounter with Mr. Obama without it being a distasteful intromision into U.S. politics, and there are some ideas that I think are novel, worthy of communicating.

Anyway, what happened was that I was walking around the corner of Madison and Western, a predominantly African American neighborhood, and there was someone handing out flyers, for what seemed like a political campaign. When I walked by this person, who turned out to be Barack Obama, he offered me a flyer, but I had to tell him that I couldn't accept it because I didn't vote. Immediately, Obama said something along the lines that that was deplorable, that without voting no improvements may happen, to which I replied that I agreed with him, but that I still couldn't vote 'cos I was just a "visa-student".

At this point, Mr. Obama was already intriguing to me, it was his demeanor that denoted great culture, it helped he didn't speak with the thick African American slang typical of Chicago. Then, Obama said something I couldn't possibly expect, like "Really?, my father met my mother when he was a visa student!". Although we were interrupting each other's business (I couldn't vote for him so there was no practical objective for him to speak with me, and I was fairly in a hurry), we still wanted to chat; perhaps just like for me it was interesting to out of the blue make an acquaintance with a very cultured gentleman in a notoriously rough neighborhood, for him it may have been refreshing to speak with a cultured Hispanic without accent; so I asked him where his father was from, "Kenya", he said, and I replied that I guessed it was very different from the monotony of most of the U.S., to which he asked whether I still liked this city, and I said that sure, Chicago was special, that it had a distinctive personality in so many ways; that I had discovered skills at Photography trying to capture the visuals of the city so that my friends back home could enjoy. By this time, I was totally misled into thinking that this guy I was talking to was running for some City Council or some ward as Alderman... to this day I still don't know what was he was running for. Anyway, he talked a little about the personality of the city, from the point of view of the communities of Chicago. By that time at least a minute and a half had passed and we had to go on our businesses. So, we shook hands and told our names.

I quickly forgot his exact name, I could only recall the strangeness of it. Although I forgot some details, this was memorable to me because this encounter made me feel proud to live in a place whose city politicians were very likable, modest, "down to earth" cultured people like the one I just met. I told a few friends about this encounter, but no one cared much about it nor knew him.

About a year later, I had a conversation with a friend of mine from New York, and he asked me if I had ever heard of a Democratic politician from Chicago, some "Barack Obama". This was after his insertion into superstardom orbit with his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 2004, of which I didn't know a thing at the time, so, ignoring why my friend was asking, I told him that I thought I did, that I met a black politician with a funny name running for Alderman or something, that they had to be the same person because there weren't so many names like that, and that yes, the guy had caused a really good impression, the whole thing. My friend then tells me that I must be wrong, 'cos that politician was already a State senator, that the reason why he was asking was his recent speech. I immediately went to watch the video on the Internet and had one of the most intense "OH MY GOD!" moments of awe in my life (Google for it, it is worth!).

One of the things it still surprises me about Obama is his authenticity. I mean, it isn't an efficient form of campaign to individually hand out fliers on a Chicago corner, a successful politician doesn't normally do that, unless s/he has a genuine desire to speak with people; our encounter illustrates this point.

Anyway, then it came his bid for the U.S. Senate, and then the publishing of "The Audacity of Hope". By that time, I still wasn't paying too much attention to Obama, until Newsweek publishes a long excerpt of "Audacity", one that dealt with his religious tribulations until he settled for his current Church. I was very pleasantly surprised a third time by Obama, being an agnostic myself, I tend to see Religion not much more than as a problem that engenders intolerance and a handicap for intelligence and progress, but reading Obama's accounts on the subject, about the significance and value of spiritualness, about how Churches could help positive social change, I appreciated that here there was someone with the intellectual depth to be able to not just elegantly walk on the very sharp edges of the subject of religion, but to also be actually persuasive about propositions that I have been opposed to most of my adult life; then I had to read the whole book.

Reading "Audacity", it emerges a more complete idea of who Obama is. I had the advantage to have actually spoken with him before his superstardom, so, when he speaks in "Audacity" about the ordeal of commuting to Washington through the O'Hare Airport rather than using his privileges as a Senator to use private jets so that he can talk to normal people, I have evidence to think that what he is saying is sincere, no bullshit. Another thing is that although he is fond of being in touch with actual people, he is not at all the kind of demagogue/populist that appeals to voter ignorance; on the contrary, he is in his own right an academic of highest caliber and best selling author who is not afraid of disagreeing with his political constituency on issues like abortion or foreign trade when the reasons are compelling; his political success stems from his ability to appeal to reason to bridge differences. Being successful at getting support from diverse constituencies that do not agree 100% with him, it is no surprise his evident success at garnering "bipartisan" support for his legislative initiatives.

The guy actually gave me a fourth "punch". I am not an U.S. citizen, so, it is a given that I can look at the U.S. from the outside; but I have been invited to look at it from the inside and have been always open and exposed to its culture and its essence , so, I think I have both perspectives, that's why I venture say that Obama's speech in Des Moines on Dec. 18 had a flash of greatness that really touched me:

[My opponent] will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus… And I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”
We must remember the context in which this words were said. At the moment, Mr. Obama was nothing but the very long shot for the candidacy who had just become a not so very long shot. So, what is the point of demonstrating that you care for the "yearning faces beyond our shores", or that he cares for the "towelheads" accused of implications to the massacre of 9/11?. I think it is fair to say that the relationship between what happens to the accused in Guantanamo and what happens to the common citizen is perceived at best as abstract and remote by the vast majority of the citizens of this country, that the people probably supported the actions of the current administration in that regard, so, why antagonize something that is apparently popular for principles that are perhaps too nuanced for the common people to appreciate?; why did Obama said that at times he already was being criticized for not being a "true American"? Was it a blunder?

This is another example of apparent electoral inefficiency that reveals what Obama is about, and here I begin to speculate: The logical extension of the body of thesis of what Obama stands for is what the excerpt says, thus, I guess he thinks he would rather elevate the plane of discussion from the day to day bickering to the ultimate ideals he stands for, than trying to please everybody by being devoid of any meaningful stance that could be attacked. That is, he is going to be attacked sooner than later for everything, so its better to show the daring to express what he really stands for to come across as a principled candidate and force the opponents to risk coming across as unprincipled, cynic, mean spirited, to force them to accuse him of being a "hope monger".

I can't say that this is the "correct" electoral strategy because all over the world politicians are elected by spewing the bullshit their constituencies want to hear, I mean, for me, public policy issues have become hopelessly complex for ignorant citizenries that can't do anything but be manipulated; the greatness comes from not appealing to the low instincts of fear, envy, egotism, that have been proved efficient to win elections, but, at times the electorate seems to feel overwhelmed with primary concerns, to dare higher messages that are essentially generous and by actually making them prevail.

These words are not very original, in fact, compare unfavorably to others like those of John Kennedy's inaugural:
To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Again, what makes them special is the context in which they were said: Kennedy wasn't risking anything by saying what he said, he already had won the whole thing and just needed to convey the idea of a grand beginning, Obama gives munition to the petty politicians in a very tight contest by aiming to objectives that may not be so popular, but are "right".

Another compelling thing about Obama is his intelligence. Take "Audacity", for instance: Is it a text of great literary value? I don't think so: It is not full of immortal "one-liners" nor anything of the sort, rather mundane things, at times it is even boring; but one must not fail to appreciate how fascinating it is his account of his most improbable role among the most powerful political entity the world has ever seen (the U.S.A.). Being a scientist/engineer myself, I took notice of the reiteration of this quality of being the "odd ball" that Obama has experienced his whole life: The improbable relation between his mother and father, his early life in Hawaii and Indonesia, growing up in mainstream U.S. not being white nor black, his religious doubts, his descent to organize communities in the the Chicago rings of poverty from the academic heights of the presidency of Harvard Law Review to his posterior ascent to the world wide prime stage is almost mythical, an invitation to think about Karmic fate, but more concretely his perennial oddity tells me volumes about the intellectual tools this person possesses: The good skeptic gets to deeper truths than the dogmatic, not being able to take things for granted, the misfit is forced to synthesize the elements of his success. Obama has walked the sharp edges of the great matters of life his whole life, well, "Audacity" demonstrates how good he became at it. Needless to say it, those are greatly desirable qualities for people in positions of great power.

Obama's increasing chances made me think about change, reforms and revolutions. Of the great processes of change in History, it seems that the most perdurable and profound are those initiated by insiders/outsiders: If complete outsiders begin a process of change, the momentum gets consumed in the replacement of the incumbent oligarchy, the ideals dilute due to the practicalities of consolidating power; if complete insiders initiate a reform, it tends to be "Gattopardian", things change so that everything remains the same. There is one notable partial counterexample, though, which is the History of the "American Revolution", that consolidated itself by radicalizing its principles, but anyway, when a reform gets initiated by the inside it gets better chances. Also, profound reforms initiated by the inside may lead to the collapse of the whole system, as it happened with the Soviet Union, here it is critical how good the leadership is to assess how far the system can move without breaking.

Paradoxically, South America is suffering a contagious infection of neo communism, so everything that smells to "progressiveness" (what is commonly understood as "liberal" in the U.S. is referred to as "progressive" elsewhere), that is, Obama, is seen as an ally of the neo communism while in fact it may be its deadliest enemy: His election would demonstrate that the U.S. is not an exploitative empire, communists would not be able to chalk everything bad that happens in the world to the "evil" U.S., they would have to accept more responsibility in their failures, demagogy becomes harder; this is what I try to explain to my friends there. I don't know much about the Islamic world, but the same principle I see clearly where I come from may apply to the Islamic world...

It gives me great delight that Mr. Obama and I are almost neighbors, we live less than half a mile apart, and frequently there is no detour to go by his place when I go home, which gives me plenty of opportunities to entertain my friends with this anecdote. Also, my wife is a Ph.D. candidate at the UoC where he used to teach; so there are several links that have me come closer to his figure; please excuse my lack of objectiveness, but before dismissing my
enthusiasm as just rooting for the local team, I encourage you to get to know him better. It happened to me that the more I learned about him, the more amazed I became.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Second Aniversay

This blog began in January of 2006.

When I got some money to invest in the stock market in November of 2005, I discovered the very active community around the Yahoo message board for AMD, and began to participate there with intensity. The usefulness of the board indicated what was lacking: There were some propositions that I was thinking about that I didn't know how to summarize into items suitable for fora; and fora illustrates the need for reference material. On the other hand, and I don't feel any guilt or embarrassment to say it, Sharikou's blog demonstrated how far a blog could go. So, I decided to experiment with the concepts of blogs, and began to publish articles here.

At the beginning, I got to be popular really fast, hundreds of repeating visitors per day. The reason is clear: This blog was part of the system that made AMD's euphoria to resonate in technophile circles. Once AMD crashed, the credibility for my opinions and this blog crashed along with it. Fortunately, a core of readers kept coming back, perhaps because a minimum of readers realized that while I was very opinionated and arrogant, at least I never compromised in intellectual honesty.

Since a core audience never abandoned this project, I eventually came to appreciate that I should just continue with it, to continue to improve the quality of what I write; the part that gets me enthusiastic about you, the audience, is that you are neither mindless AMD cheerleaders (you would have left long ago), nor mindless AMD bashers, 'cos mindless bashers wouldn't ever respect the opinions of someone who used to be as optimistic on AMD as I was. Furthermore, the audience of this blogs tolerates the change of opinion form one extreme to the other. That is remarkable, to have filtered an audience from the cacophony of the internet to people who respects opinions.

I wanted to explain why I am so proud.

Anyway, lately I have been particularly busy with professional engagements, and as I said I would do, I reduced my positions on AMD to a minimum (due to the lack of clarity and ample opportunities the big players will have to manipulate this price), to construct a not so speculative and not so big bullish-Intel/bearish-Market combo, so, I have been sort of taking a vacation on the market lately. There are a large number of things to talk about, though. Perhaps I will squeeze the chances to actually write them, just that it has been over a month since my last post and I don't want to create uncertainty about the future of this project. It has been over two years, and I can see how much the constant effort of writing has improved my skills to get information and present that information, like I said, I very much appreciate the audience, so, this project has increased its importance for me; just that I can't keep the usual rythm in times my business are doing so well.