Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yahoo "cross talk" ban jolts bidders

(Reuters) - Some potential buyers of Yahoo Inc are balking at the Internet company's demands for confidentiality that would prevent them from discussing joint bids, according to several people close to the situation.

Yahoo advisers Goldman Sachs and Allen & Co informed interested parties this week of a "no cross talk" provision, part of a non-disclosure agreement that must be signed to gain access to Yahoo's sensitive financial data, the sources said.

The provision has irked several potential buyers, including private equity firms that had planned to jointly bid for Yahoo.

They have refused to sign the nondisclosure agreement, and one source went so far as to call the provision a deal-breaker.

With a market value of about $20 billion, Yahoo is likely too big for any one party to swallow, with the exception of possibly Microsoft Corp.

But even Microsoft is considering a team bid, the Wall Street Journal said. It reported in its Deal Journal that Microsoft was working with Silver Lake Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment board on a proposal.

Read more at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/20/us-yahoo-bidding-idUSTRE79I84G20111020?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=71&google_editors_picks=true

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Replace Charlie with Ashton? What was CBS thinking?

Sorry CBS, you are in the ultimate human capital business, entertainment, and the players in your business are not interchangeable!

To think you can replace Charlie Sheen with Ashton is monumentally foolish!

Too bad, Two And A Half Men was a great show, but it definitely needs Charlie Sheen to produce the phenomenal ratings it historically has had, he is your rainmaker...

Monday, October 17, 2011

GS Elevator Gossip

Hilarious Twitter account of things overheard in GS' elevators: http://twitter.com/#!/GSElevator


MD#1: Never forget - Hope is a poor hedge.

#1: She wanted to sit on the same side of the table. #2: I hate that. #1: I know. Makes me feel like I'm driving a car.

#1: It's gonna be a directionless market today with people out for Rosh Hashanah. #2: By that logic, it'll be chaos in Hollywood.

#1: Since he's rich, we call him 'eccentric.' If he was poor, he'd just be 'crazy.'

#1: VIX above 40. #2: #1: Whenever you think, 'I’ve done way riskier sh*t than this,' remember: Steve Irwin was killed by a fish.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Performance Incentives: Someone forgot the students

I constantly read about principals, teachers, and occasionally even parents receiving performance incentives linked to student performance.

The performance pay model where principals and teachers are held accountable for student performance generally doesn't work, because a student's performance is determined by the student. The principals and teachers are valuable shepherds, but any teacher will tell you that if a student doesn't want to learn, he or she won't, no matter what you do.

In the days of yesteryear, there was a stick approach, your parents beat the snot out of you with a belt if you received poor grades.

Those days are long gone in the US.

Here, parental involvement is held up as a way to improve student performance. However, because most parents in the US are pushovers and see their kids as being able to do no wrong, parental involvement has limited effect on student performance in the US.

In China and India, the beat the snot out of your kid if he brings home poor grades approach still exists (the stick approach) hence why they kick our ass on international math and science assessments even when their kids are learning in a classroom environment consisting of mud floor room with one teacher and 80 kids with a piece of chalk.

Since we're not likely to bring back corporal punishment anytime soon... earth to policy makers, it's student performance that we're talking about, we can't use the stick approach, so that leaves the carrot: i.e. the best way to incent student performance is to incent the student.

With the average annual spend per student running $5,000-$10,000, depending on the district, there is plenty of room there to fund student incentives.

I still remember how in elementary school our Principal had a sticker board for all the classes, and at lunch time, if students behaved that day, their class would earn a sticker. If they misbehaved they would receive no sticker, and if their behavior was particularly egregious, the class would lose a sticker. After getting 40 stickers, the class would get a pizza party.

Suffice it to say, we almost never had behavioral problems at lunch.

Kids in K-12 are 'stupid' when it comes to doing things for their own good.

They don't understand that they are in school learning in order to build a knowledge base that will allow them to compete with foreign students and with other people.

K-12 kids are simply not looking at that time horizon.

What they do understand is "if you get straight A's this semester, you'll receive a $250 gift card good at GameStop, Amazon, GAP, etc.."

To a kid in K-12, $250 per semester is a huge amount of money and would serve as an excellent motivator. It's enough to buy a PS3 or XBOX 360, or a bunch of new outfits, or a new set of rollerblades.

Over the course of the K-12 career of a student, assuming the student received straight A's every single semester, this would cost a whopping $6,500 per student!

Apple iBoard: A Device Apple hopefully will create in the near future

Apple already answered our all-in-one phone prayers with the iPhone, which was promptly copied by Android and Google.

Before the iPhone the all-in-one competitors were the Treo and the Blackberry ::shudders::.

The iPad reminds me of the PADD from Star Trek and is a logical evolution of the iPhone.

Next, I hope Apple tackles "Smart Boards." The typical smart board, in a classroom or office setting, runs a windows xp computer with junk interface software, no multitouch capability, and worst of all log on wait times of 5-10 minutes.

No one in our office uses our $10,000 smart board as a smart whiteboard, at best it's used as a projector. When two people are talking, and they need to write an idea on a white board, they are not going to pause the conversation and wait 5-10 minutes for the smart board to boot up.

Worse, once it boots up, only one person can write at a time! This makes it impossible to use effectively in a classroom setting where multiple students need to work out homework problems on the board!

The built in software is also abymsal in terms of enhancing productivity. There are also very few apps that take advantage of the large smart board touch screen capabilities.

Surely this is a device that Apple can work it's GUI, multitouch app, end-to-end magic on.

Many executives still thing anything Apple is a toy, intended only for consumption and not creation, and many students do not get exposure to Apple devices until they're teenagers.

This device has the benefit of winning mindshare in the classroom and the boardroom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

Apple says Steve Jobs passed away today.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chris Christie's Weight

I never found Chris Christie's weight to be a problem.

He reminds me of Doug from King of Queens.

I think the average American would relate to him, especially since 63% of Americans are overweight...

Columbia University's Wonderful Administration

Dear Columbia,

I ordered a copy of my undergrad transcript from Princeton and my grad
transcript from Columbia on Friday September 9th, with one set sent to my
home and one set sent to the school I'm applying to in California (USC).

I live about 8 miles from Columbia (Yonkers) and 70 miles from Princeton yet
I received my Princeton transcript on Tuesday morning while I still have not
received my Columbia transcripts. This has me quite concerned....

Thanks,
Eugene

Dear Eugene,

Thank you for contacting the Student Service Center.

Your transcript request has been received and processed. They was mailed to USC Grad Office of Admission and 1 Lewis Parkway on 9/09/11. Please allow regular mail times to receive the transcripts.

Please let me know if you have any more questions or need further assistance.

Regards,

Jonathan

Dear Columbia,

As a check, I had the transcripts mailed to myself as well as USC.

"Your transcript request has been received and processed. They was mailed to USC Grad Office of Admission and 1 Lewis Parkway on 9/09/11. Please allow regular mail times to receive the transcripts."

The transcript was produced on September 9th.

The postmark on the transcript envelope was September 23rd.

Please explain where the transcript was in the interim?

I doubt USC has received the transcript still, since the mailing time from Columbia to my house is 1 day, while USC is 3-4 days.


This type of experience is consistent with my encounters with all facets of Columbia's administration, with the exception of the student financial aid office. I guess because of Columbia's location (NYC), they figure they can have horrendous service without it affecting their enrollment.

Hell, I had better service from CUNY when I took a college course in high school.

Contrast that with Princeton where everything runs like butter.