octubre 02, 2004


Is Merck a buy right now?

I almost bought Martha Stewart's corporation's stock when it was at its nadir. I was convinced it was a good deal, I just didn't get around to it. After all, the fundamentals of the business were still sound. Her supporters seemed to be rallying around her, unconcerned by the jail sentence. And the jail sentence was only going to be a short time anyway.

Apparently the stock price has since doubled.

I haven't researched Merck's situation yet and I haven't been paying attention to the story. But my initial guess is that the market has probably overreacted, and Merck is at a level worth buying.

Oil makes me nervous

I'm a strong believer that energy prices are a significant influence in economic growth. It makes me nervous to have oil over $50 a barrel. I think low energy prices was one of the most overlooked reasons the economy was so strong in the 90s.

I remember getting gas at 86 cents a gallon, and it's now about $1.90 nationally. That's a huge difference on a micro level, and given the multiplier effect it is no surprise that the economy has not been chugging along as swiftly as it might otherwise, particularly when taxes are cut.

septiembre 30, 2004

ESPN is pulling an MTV

ESPN appears to be taking a page out of MTV's playbook.

MTV built a brand as an edgy, hip music video brand aimed at the 13-35 demographic. Then they dropped the music video, and just became an edgy, hip brand aimed at 13-35. MTV realized that they had built a brand using the music videos, but they could then leverage the brand into entertainment. Now MTV is almost entirely entertainment, with only lip service to music.

ESPN appears to be going in the same direction. They've ridden the poker wave with their World Series of Poker. Their WSOP shows have done extraordinarily well. They have Dream Job, which must've done well in the ratings, because they're starting several other sports-themed reality tv game shows.

No surprise there. More people will tune in to watch a show like Dream Job, with sports info and a plot then will want to watch a mid-July meaningless baseball game between the Expos and the Brewers.

I'm curious though -- no network has really taken over MTV's former niche of music videos. There are a few networks, but none has hit the same prominence. If ESPN continues to move towards entertainment and away from sports, will other networks fill the void? To some degree, there already are competitors (more so than music video networks) such as Comcast Sports or Fox Sports Network.

septiembre 29, 2004


Seems to me that everything in business runs in cycles.

Forbes is running a series on corporate integrity. About Microsoft they say:
One reason Microsoft gets an A for corporate governance is that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and Chairman Bill Gates, unlike their employees, do not get stock awards.
This amuses me. I wrote previously about not believing the hype around companies, and used Campbells Soup as an example.

Campbells' Board of Directors was given awards for having the best board in America, and one of the reasons -- if I recall correctly -- was that they took the lead in compensating directors in stock options.

Now companies are giving awards for not giving stock options. Figures.

Expos to DC announcement tomorrow?

ESPN.com is reporting that MLB will announce that the Expos are moving to Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

Mayor Anthony Williams said, "I think we'll be in a position where we can have a celebration tomorrow."

septiembre 27, 2004

The thrill of the chase...

Forbes has an article on a recent study by a U of Minnesota professor that suggests that happiness is largely genetic. No surprise to me, as I generally come down on the nature side in the nature vs. nurture debate.
Another shocker that shouldn't have been: Wealth levels have a limited impact on happiness. Again, this is no surprise to biologists, Ketelaar says, because money is a relatively recent development in the history of human evolution. "Of course individuals aren't built to track wealth," he says. "Prior to agriculture, you couldn't have a society that could amass wealth."

Clues to our behaviors can be found in the brain chemical dopamine, which is the key to the body's reward system. Strangely, in chimpanzees, dopamine levels peak not when they are going to get an award but when they realize the award is coming. That's very similar to our response to money.

For chimpanzees, this kind of brain chemistry can lead to strange behavior. In an essay, Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky described a chimp that chased a prospective mate far beyond what would be reasonable, because the mate dropped occasional signals that she might be willing--maybe, someday. Sapolsky referred to this as the "pleasure and pain of maybe." The chimp was willing to go to great lengths for a hypothetical reward.
In other words, it's the chase that is thrilling. Getting what we want is often not so thrilling.

There's something about setting goals and pursuing them that makes us happy. Achieving goals isn't so important, it's the struggle to achieve.

Career paths

A snippet from Forbes:
Careful observers gained pleasure in a whole other layer of knowledge--less concrete, but more tantalizing--by watching the interaction of speaker and audience. Consider the feverish note-taking of AOL founder Steve Case--now a major land developer in Hawaii--when social observer Malcolm Gladwell noted how often consumers misdirect because they do not know what they desire.
From AOL to major land developer in Hawaii.

septiembre 26, 2004

Cool, but

Via Small Business Trends, comes the Swiss Memory from Victorinox. Basically, take a swiss army knife and add a USB memory stick.

This is cool, I like the combination. But I wonder if it will work out. If I want a memory stick, I'm more likely to buy a keychain memory stick (widely available these days for only $30 or so) than I am to buy the Swiss Memory. The two products aren't very complementary. The swiss army knife is an outdoors activity, while a memory stick is a decidedly indoors activity.

So I don't know. It's a neat concept, but one I doubt will be popularly successful.

One of the few things (I think) I know about women...

Gordon Smith writes:
Our 19th anniversary is on Monday, but we will not have much of a chance to do anything, so this is part of our anniversary celebration. My wife is the funnest, most interesting person I know, so today undoubtedly will be memorable.

P.S. I noticed that GM gave away 276 cars to celebrate Oprah's 19th season. I haven't thought much about the appropriate gift for #19. Any suggestions?
Yes, I have one. Never admit that you waited until two days before the anniversary to think about her anniversary present. If I were the professor, I'd delete the post right now.

On a more substantive note, my father taught me a very valuable lesson: never get a woman you love anything practical. I have found that jewelry is wonderfully impractical.