Monthly Archives: December 2014

103-Word Joke Involving a Duck

103-Word Joke involving a Duck

In 2002, Richard Wiseman, a British psychology professor from the University of Hertfordshire asked people to rank thousands of jokes, in an experimentation called LaughLab. He produced a website where individuals could grade and put forward jokes. The most favorable length for jokes was found to be 103 words. And jokes containing ducks were found to be funnier than jokes about other animals. Rationally a 103-word joke featuring a duck would be funniest of all.

Duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “Got any grapes?” The bartender says, “No. This is a bar. We don’t sell grapes.” The duck leaves.

The next day, the duck’s back. “Got any grapes?” The bartender says, “I told you yesterday. We don’t sell grapes.”

The third day: “Got any grapes?” The bartender loses it, grabs the duck, and yells, “I already told you twice! Ask me again and I’ll nail your beak to the floor!”

The next day, the duck returns. “Got any nails?” The bartender sighs. “No, we don’t have any nails.” The duck says, “Good. Got any grapes?”

Recommended Reading

Tagged
Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits

Activist Investors Forcing Real Change

Activist Investors Forcing Real Change

Shareholder activism is an ever more complex and multi-faceted phenomenon. If the ambition of shareholder activism is to cause change through disruption—or at least confront the status quo—then activist investors are increasingly hitting the target. Companies such as Target, Apple, Canadian Pacific Railways, Dell, Herbalife, Procter and Gamble, eBay, Yahoo, Amgen, and J. C. Penney have already been transformed to some degree owing to encounters with activist shareholders. Theoretically, this sounds like a good thing—more accountability to investors.

The activist shareholders have achieved success in those cases because of a emergent refinement in their modus operandi. Ten years ago they were seen as troublesome mavericks. Having typically acquired 5% to 10% of a company’s stock, they tended to hone in on a single corporate governance issue, such as poison pills, staggered board structures, or, most notably, management incompetence. By contrast, today’s activists constitute a trustworthy, objective asset class, taking a stance on a wide variety of strategic issues in their target companies.

Activist investors have recurrently played a crucial role in interactions between corporations and markets. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, activists are playing a growing role in countering corporate inertia and chubbiness, in driving M&A activity, and most crucially in unlocking value-for themselves, for the companies in which they have invested, and for the economy. As hedge funds and activist shareholders gained greater power and credibility, some companies have even become more receptive to dissident shareholder proposals. Activist shareholders are deploying multifaceted campaigns, focusing on core concerns like operations and governance. Companies have found that an activist campaign can be costly for management, both in direct expenses and in the significant time and attention diverted from running the business.

Activist Shareholders Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb, Carl Icahn, Stephen Schwarzman

The new activists have dramatically upped the pressure on corporate executives and boards. They buy stocks they view as undervalued and pressure management to do things they believe will raise the value, such as giving more cash back to shareholders or shedding divisions that they think are driving down the stock price. With increasing frequency they get deeply involved in governance— demanding board seats, replacing CEOs, and advocating specific business strategies.

Shareholder activism once the province of a handful of high profile names has been expanded by hedge funds with a dedicated focus on activism. Activists have become more disciplined, informed, and balanced in their style. Increasingly they are waging discreet, private campaigns to force boards to acknowledge their ability to bring fresh ideas and stimulate performance. Other, more passive shareholders tend to welcome a powerful and rational new voice speaking on their behalf. It is, after all, every board’s duty to represent all its shareholders.

'The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success' by William N. Thorndike (ISBN 1422162672) Activists do have good ideas. They are extremely analytical, they’re very sharp, very rational people. And often, they have a pretty positive story to be told that should be at least paid attention to. Activists often have valid reasons for pressing companies for change and urges executives to react more collaboratively when confronted.

Activists are having a profound effect across American boardrooms. Today’s activists are ushering in a more open style of corporate culture. Where real power used to dwell solely with the chairman and CEO (two distinct roles still too often filled by just one person), it is now becoming more devolved. New checks and balances are providing stronger advocacy for a broad set of stakeholders. Also, as investment capital is reallocated, executives will focus more closely on performance, even long after activists have sold their stake.

Prominent Shareholder Activist Investors

Recommended reading: ‘The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success’ by William N. Thorndike has created a buzz among the activist community for laying out in plain language what the activists are often arguing for.

Tagged
Posted in Investing and Finance

Best Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Biographies

Tagged
Posted in Leaders and Innovators

Marissa Mayer: Creativity Loves Constraints

Marissa Mayer, then Vice-President for Search Products and User Experience at Google, and presently CEO of Yahoo, had the following thoughts on creativity:

Marissa Mayer on Creativity Constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome. Creativity thrives best when constrained.

Constraints can actually speed development. For instance, we often can get a sense of just how good a new concept is if we only prototype for a single day or week. Or we’ll keep team size to three people or fewer. By limiting how long we work on something or how many people work on it, we limit our investment.

… constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity. While we need them to spur passion and insight, we also need a sense of hopefulness to keep us engaged and unwavering in our search for the right idea. Innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision.

Henry Ford once said: “If I’d listened to customers, I’d have given them a faster horse.” True creativity makes the impossible possible. It can revolutionize a product, a business, the economy, and the world around us.

Think about that the next time someone interprets the results of a customer survey or focus group.

Tagged
Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

The Four Filters of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

Countless portfolio managers, hedge fund managers, investment analysts, mutual funds, institutional pools of capital and individual investors have grown up devouring everything that’s been said or written by or about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger over the years.

In the 2007 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffett wrote, “Charlie and I look for companies that have a) a business we understand; b) favorable long-term economics; c) able and trustworthy management; and d) a sensible price tag.” Based on this sage advice, value investors must look for:

  • A business that we can understand. A business within your circle of competence.
  • A business with favorable long-term prospects. A business with a line of business that is not easy to duplicate. A business with excellent cash flow profile: excellent ability to generate and invest cash.
  • A business led and perated by honest and competent people.
  • A business available for sale at a very attractive price.
Tagged
Posted in Investing and Finance

Richard Branson’s 10 Tips for Success

Richard Branson's 10 Tips for Success

  1. Follow your dreams and just do it. “Follow your dreams, get involved in life, in the things that interest you. If you are going to create a business, make sure it is your hobby, your passion or something that you really enjoy.”
  2. Make a positive difference and do some good. “The first thing to do if you want to become an entrepreneur is basically to have an idea that is going to make a positive difference to other people’s lives. A business is simply that.”
  3. 'Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way' by Richard Branson (ISBN 0307720748) Believe in your ideas and be the best. “You definitely need to believe in your idea. There’s really no point in doing something in life unless people feel really good about it and proud about it. You’ve got to have passion for it and you’ve got to be able to inspire other people to have a passion for it too.”
  4. Have fun and look after your team. “Make sure that you’ve got the kinds of people running your companies who genuinely care about people, who look for the best in people and who praise and don’t criticise.”
  5. Don’t give up. “It’s extremely important not to give up. There have been situations in my adventures, like crossing the pacific in a balloon, where the odds were stacked very heavily against us surviving.”
  6. Make lots of lists and keep setting yourself new challenges. “I make copious lists because I think it’s the little details that make for an exceptional company over an average company. Details are very important and I think it’s important to keep setting yourself new challenges and targets.”
  7. Spend time with your family and learn to delegate. “One of the early things you have to do as an entrepreneur is learn the art of delegation. Find people who are better than you to run the companies on a day-to-day basis, freeing yourself up to think about the bigger picture and spend time with your family.”
  8. 'Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur' by Richard Branson (ISBN 1591844061) Try turning off the TV and get out there and do things. “My mum brought us up very much to get out there and do things, don’t watch other people do things, and don’t watch television. I think that was a good way of bringing up kids. With my own kids, we’ve spent quite a lot of time in the Caribbean and we never watch television there.”
  9. When people say bad things about you, just prove them wrong. “There are people who hang onto the coat tails of successful people and try to sell a few books on the back of their name. It’s unpleasant but you know that if you sue them or kick up a fuss, all it will do is publicise the book. So I’ve had to learn the art of ignoring people like that.”
  10. Do what you love and have a sofa in the kitchen. “You only live one life, so I would do the thing that you are going to enjoy. When life boils down, this might sound like a little much coming from me, I do have my own little island in the Caribbean, but when we are on that island, we tend to just live in the kitchen.”
Tagged
Posted in Leaders and Innovators

The Economic Impact of Aging Japan

The Economic Impact of Aging Japan

The saving rates in Japan will fall dramatically by 2024 and make Japan’s financial wealth decline. There are two direct reasons for this fall: one is that by 2024, more than a third of Japan’s population will be over the age of 65, which will lead the retired household to outnumber households in their prime saving years. Another reason is that the younger generation is saving far less than older generations have, and this truth will amplify the effects of a decline in the number of savers.

This trend will decrease the accumulation of wealth and erode Japanese living standards. What’s more, since Japan has played an important role in financing the massive US current-account deficit, as Japanese funding dries up, this damage may extend to other countries and bring negative impact for economic system of America. For example, if other rapidly industrializing countries could not step up to fill the gap in savings as Japan’s savings rate declines, the United States will probably be forced to trim its trade deficit and this could have enormous repercussion for the global economy.

There are only two ways to mitigate the coming demographic pressure in a meaningful way: increasing household savings and boosting the returns earned on them.

  • Increasing savings: Given the significant increase in average life spans during the past 50 years, rising the retirement age is a way to extent the period when households are most prone to save. In addition, encouraging younger Japanese households to save more is also a helpful step to increase household savings.
  • Raise the rates of return: The most effective change for Japan would be to raise the rates of return on its financial assets. To do so, Japan will have to raise productivity throughout the economy and increase the efficiency of the financial system in allocating capital.

On one hand, basic structural reform, such as elimination of market regulations that would increase competition and spark innovation, tax policies protecting inefficient companies, and ease zoning and land regulations that reduce large companies’ expanding and creating jobs to protect start-ups to do business, could increase the economic-wide productivity.

On the other hand, increasing the financial system’s efficiency ensures the savings are channeled to the most productive investments and improves legal protection for investors and creditors. The diversification of Japan’s household financial assets is also an important means of increasing the efficiency of capital allocation.

Tagged
Posted in Global Business

Yale’s Steven Novella on Skepticism of Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW)

Anthropomorphic Global Warming

Steve Novella, clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, writes:

On many issues, however, there is a nuanced opinion somewhere in between the two extremes. I have no reason to doubt the scientific consensus on AGW, but we have to remember the current consensus is that AGW is 95% probable, meaning (if accurate) that one in 20 such statements will turn out to be wrong. Also, it is reasonable to question the efficacy of individual proposed solutions to AGW. I am still solidly in the “AGW is probably real and if we are going to do something about it we better start acting now,” camp, but I also don’t think we should white wash over current uncertainties in order to present a clean and united front. Science is messy and we have to deal with it.

Tagged
Posted in Global Business

Drink your Tea the Turkish way in this beautifully ornate Gold- and Sapphire-Colored Turkish Tea Set

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

There’s nothing like a Turkish tea to set you up for the day.

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

It’s the right time to drink a cup of turkish tea at this cold weather to feel warm.

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Turkish Tea Set. Beautiful at home or work. We love this colorful set!

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Gold and Sapphire Colored Turkish Tea & Coffee Cups

Tagged
Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

Gandhi on God

'Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work' Edited by S. Radhakrishnan (ISBN 1553940261) There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent.

There is an unalterable Law governing everything and every being that exists or lives. It is not a blind law; for no blind law can govern the conduct of living beings.

That Law, then, which governs all life is God. Law and the Law-Giver are one. I may not deny the Law or the Law-Giver because I know so little about It or Him. Just as my denial or ignorance of the existence of an earthly power will avail me nothing, even so my denial of God and His law will not liberate me from its operation; whereas humble and mute acceptance of divine authority makes life’s journey easier even as the acceptance of earthly rule makes life under it easier.

Source: ‘Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections on His Life and Work’ edited by S. Radhakrishnan

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion