Hashemian Blog
Web, Finance, Technology, Running

Banks must love me

by @ 10:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The letter starts out by making you feel real special: "It's not every day we offer someone a line of credit up to $XYZ."

Okay, now I feel real special. I feel pride, I feel joy, I feel superior. Imagine that, someone out there really cares for me and wants to offer me $XYZ. The classic sales pitch of making the subject feel smart is in motion. I'm now only a signature away from receiving a load of money and I didn't even have to ask for it.

The worst pitches are the ones that have a check attached. It's a real check, with a disclaimer of course. You deposit that check and they've got you. How can one refuse such generosity and kindness? Of course, the rational move at such moment is to make confetti out of the letter and send it straight to the garbage can.

Would these people care if I was in dire need of cash? What if my credit was poor and I really needed the money? What if I needed a special deal? Would they be so generous then? For once, I wish they would prove their devotion by sending me a check with no strings attached. Or how about some cash with a nice note like: "We just thought you could use this cash. Just pay us back whenever you feel like it."

If they want my friendship and loyalty, here's a chance for them to prove it. I'm not that hard to please.
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Boring Microsoft

by @ 10:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Whatever happened to the Microsoft we used to know? As I was graduating from college eons ago, it was anyone's dream to work there. This was a nimble, forward-looking, cutting edge place, cranking out one great product after another. It had the power, the glory, the money, and Bill Gates.

Gates is still there, but somehow Microsoft isn't quite what it used to be. Yes, they still make decent products, and they're sitting on a pile of cash that gets bigger every year, but somehow this isn't the same company it once was.

What ticks me off about Microsoft is how paranoid they've become. Maybe it's not their fault. Maybe they’re afraid of lawsuits, but they seem to be operating in panic mode these days.

One irritating manifestation is the spate of fixes they dispatch on the wire and force PC's to auto-reboot. It angers me to no end when I arrive at my desk and see my PC rebooted because some guy in Redmond decided to ram a patch down its throat. Whatever happened to the claim Windows XP and 2003 won't need so many reboots? Even more irritating is their approach to protecting PC's against possible threats. Suddenly my programs stop working because some new patch has decided to block foreign programs from accessing the PC's resources.

The panic is obvious. Each time after a new vulnerability is discovered, the programmers just hard-code zealous protection into the products and ship it out. Seems like little thought is given to how many programs and utilities these actions would cripple.

The new cool products like .NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 they just released, and Vista on the way, are proof that Microsoft is still alive and well. But looking at their stock that's been stuck in a rut for years, one gets a feeling that alive and well no longer mean exciting.
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Holiday Calories

by @ 6:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

running shoes
Christmas and gluttony! How well they go together. Every year it’s the same thing. You promise yourself moderation, and it ends up being all but an empty vow. Chocolate at work, chocolate at home, chocolate at parties, chocolate everywhere. How's one to resist? A rational mind would give it up by now and surrender to the sweets, and I guess trying my best logic, I have also decided that wasting time with thoughts of abstinence is an exercise in futility.

So what a man to do to extricate the pounds of chocolate poison. For me the only solution is running. Fortunately I still have my legs and while I feel them buckling under the extra weight I just rev it up a little more during holidays. Today's mileage was about 10 miles and it felt pretty good. Supplemented with a couple of glucosamine pills (do they actually do anything useful?) and a couple of grapefruits (my all-time favorite fruit), and my body gets some semblance of balance, admittedly still a bit lop-sided.

So when I got back from the run, the chocolate was still patiently waiting for me. Willy Wonka would not be disappointed.
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Google Adsense, festive style

by @ 11:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

themed adsense
Google adsense ads have always been pretty drab. They're basically a small rectangle with some text and a link to the advertiser's Web site. Here's Google's attempt to make adsense a little more interesting by applying a little holiday style.

I can't say if the holiday spirit background has made them more prominent to generate more clicks, but anything besides the old boring format is a welcome change. At least it makes them look a little livelier, especially on sites like mine that look pretty boring to begin with.

If you run adsense on your site, you can enable this style by going to "My Account", "Ad Type Preference", and selecting "themed ad units".
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Snoop Bushy Bush

by @ 12:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bush calls the leaking of the domestic eavesdropping program a "shameful act". Come on man, get a grip and stop acting all shocked and surprised over this revelation. Like this was a great big secret.

Judging by his remark, Bush doesn't seem so happy about the revelation that makes him appear like a dictator. Whatever the case, people (specially the terrorists he's trying to chase) have been well aware of this tactic for years. We've been hearing clicks and pops on our phone lines for a few years now and it's not due to technical trouble. There's been little doubt that someone has been monitoring the conversations. As a matter of fact, the static is eerily familiar to those who have lived in countries like Iran. The difference being that while the governments in that region do not admit tapping phone calls, it is common knowledge that they do, so they don't deny it either. You see, anyone (including the terrorists) who has lived under some kind of a harsh regime knows full well that governments are not to be trusted, and they would spy on anyone at any time. This information won't change matters much. They already knew about this anyways.

I am not sure how I feel about the spying itself. On the one hand I see some value in it. But on the other hand, what's to stop the government from archiving and analyzing every aspect of my life? It was easy enough for them to spy on the calls without a court order. Apparently shunting the law has gotten real easy these days. What would stop them from sharing information with insurance companies, credit companies, employers, and others? If I have a phone job interview with a competitor, will my employer find out about it? If I have an affair, will someone call my wife with the juicy details? Or perhaps try to blackmail me first? Once the information is there, at best it's an unscrupulous employee and a couple of bucks away from being publicized.

The point is that most people already knew about the spying. Bush's theatrics notwithstanding, we can hope that this news would at least lead to some sort of framework to protect the citizens' privacy. Wishful thinking, I guess.
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Google's irrational exuberance

by @ 9:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Who's market cap is greater than eBay and Yahoo combined, greater than six time that of Amazon, greater than Cisco's, nearly twice that of Dell's, and just about half of Microsoft's? Google, of course.

In one of the pages of my book, under the Fundamental Analysis section, I write: "Ask yourself whether the company deserve a market cap of x dollars." Well, I asked myself whether Google deserves a market cap of nearly $130 billion, I just can't make a case. On his radio show last night, Jim Cramer, was predicting even higher values for Google, essentially encouraging his listeners to buy Google shares. Talk about a case of irrational exuberance.

No, I am not slamming Google. I love the company, just not its stock right now. I realize how innovative it is and how the possible deal with AOL could give it a nice boost. But this has now reached the too-good-to-be-true level and when that happens, a sobering correction could be around any corner.

I am not predicting doom and gloom for Google. It has too much momentum now to quickly surrender to gravity. Who knows? It could continue its rise for a long time surprising even the optimists like Cramer. But even if does so, it wouldn’t change the fact that the stock has gotten too lofty and that the traders have now entered the speculative zone vis-à-vis Google.
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Google's irrational exuberance

by @ 9:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Who's market cap is greater than eBay and Yahoo combined, greater than six time that of Amazon, greater than Cisco's, nearly twice that of Dell's, and just about half of Microsoft's? Google, of course.

In one of the pages of my book, under the Fundamental Analysis section, I write: "Ask yourself whether the company deserve a market cap of x dollars." Well, I asked myself whether Google deserves a market cap of nearly $130 billion, I just can't make a case. On his radio show last night, Jim Cramer, was predicting even higher values for Google, essentially encouraging his listeners to buy Google shares. Talk about a case of irrational exuberance.

No, I am not slamming Google. I love the company, just not its stock right now. I realize how innovative it is and how the possible deal with AOL could give it a nice boost. But this has now reached the too-good-to-be-true level and when that happens, a sobering correction could be around any corner.

I am not predicting doom and gloom for Google. It has too much momentum now to quickly surrender to gravity. Who knows? It could continue its rise for a long time surprising even the optimists like Cramer. But even if does so, it wouldn’t change the fact that the stock has gotten too lofty and that the traders have now entered the speculative zone vis-à-vis Google.
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Domain scam

by @ 12:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

fax - domain scam
You've got to give credit to the ingenuity of some slick operators out there trying to make a quick buck. A couple of days ago I received this fax attempting to rope me in for a domain name with a .US TLD (Top Level Domain) extension. I own the .COM equivalent and I have no interest in their offer, but some people may fall for this scheme and end up paying for something they never had any intention of owning.

Here's how the scheme works. An alleged company with an official-sounding name goes through a list of domains and pulls out the owners' contact information. They then craft a confusing, but official-looking, document laden with a bunch of legalese and account numbers and give it a tone of urgency to swindle the receivers into action. The idea is to scare the domain owners into paying money for renewing domain names or registering new domains with similar names. Then they fax or mail this official looking document to give it an aura of credibility.

Sometimes the documents look like this fax. Other times they appear like invoices with short due dates. They work based on the laws of percentages. In other words a percentage of people might get concerned enough to send them money, or some of the letters may end up in accounting departments with lax checks and balances who might treat them as legitimate invoices and make prompt payments.

I have no idea if these supposed companies even render the services they advertise, but even if they do, their practices are at best questionable. If you want to register a domain name or renew an existing one, just contact a legitimate, ICANN accredited registrar. Of course you knew this already, but the accounting guys in your company might need a reminder on this too.
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Dedicated to Cocoa, the rabbit

by @ 10:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Cocoa
Living in the woods we're surrounded by animals and we see our share of dead squirrels, geese, and deer among others. But when death hits one of your pets, it is specially painful. In our case, one of our rabbits, Cocoa, passed away this morning of some mysterious disease that started by paralyzing his hind legs and quickly spread to his entire body. By the time we got him to the Vet, it was too late.

Seeing the tears of my daughter was devastating. It reminded me of the time when my own pet had passed away. I was older and I was far away when it happened, but it still hurt. Human or animal, when a good friend dies, it leaves an empty spot that's not so easily filled.

Rest in peace Cocoa. You will be missed and we'll keep your memory alive. This blog entry is dedicated to you.

Pollution smells like progress

by @ 11:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I took this picture from one of the elevations surrounding tehran.
I travel to my native country of Iran every few years and find it immensely interesting. It's easy for people living in the West to get caught up in the political news and commentaries and forget that at the heart of every society there are people just like themselves. For me, it’s like being a foreigner in an exotic land with one big benefit, I fit in pretty easily. I can speak the language and understand the culture, so I can immerse myself in the society and remain rather invisible.

But not all aspects of my trips to Iran are positive. Perhaps the most disturbing is witnessing the city I grew up in, Tehran, being destroyed by so called progress. To be sure, Tehran was never an orderly city. Over-population and pollution have always been a curse as far back as I can remember, but it’s plain to see that these effects have snowballed to unbearable levels. I often found myself wondering how people can live in this smog-filled city. Asthma and other respiratory diseases are at alarming levels particularly among children and the elderly. I saw many people walking around with face masks, a testament to a deteriorating living conditions in Tehran.

Unbridled construction and mass migration from all corners of Iran have made this city a nightmare to live in. Cars and motorcycles rule supreme and many of them are not even close to an acceptable emission status. A trip that should take no more than half hour, takes three hours to complete. The city is chocking in its own smog and an ugly haze blankets the city all the time. Is this the price of progress? Old-timers recall a city with pure air and water. Sadly all that is lost, and there is no end in sight for this progress. Tehran seems determined to continue on its suicidal path.

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