My wife took these pictures the other day using her i phone 5. A very good image considering that it was taken through her windshield.
digital photography, cycling, running, science and technology and economics
My memoir, which I have been working on for over one year, has been published. The story covers my earliest childhood from the time I was adopted, continuing through my elementary and high school years and up to the present time. Not know what I wanted to to with my life, I enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Russian Linguist serving in the Security Service. After completing my four-year enlistment, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Accountancy. I began a career in Federal Income Taxation that helped me morph into a career in Strategy Consulting and Merger and Acquisition Consulting. In 1991, I completed a Masters in Liberal Studies that focused on literature and creative writing. I have many stories of all of these years, many of which are more outward focused. I currently reside in Austin, Texas and Evergreen, Colorado: two communities that foster reading and writing. At age 69 I am a part-time strategy consultant, distance runner, cyclist, digital photographer, reader, blogger and hope to become an established writer.
When I am not doing these things, I enjoy the company of my children and grandchildren and old friends and relatives from my childhood days in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
If you are so inclined, you can purchase my book through my publisher Author House by going to http://www.authorhouse.com and searching for my memoir which is titled Passing Through …My Life as a Part of the Boysen Family. I am donating 45% of the profits from my memoir to the Wounded Warrior Project and 45% to cancer research.
Feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Xbox One: should TV broadcasters be afraid?
Microsoft focused on TV over games as it unveiled its new generation console – and it could threaten rival platforms
Xbox One’s voice and gesture-activated TV wizardry is unlikely to leave BSkyB worried about its future. But with big name games and on-demand content Microsoft is aiming to maintain Xbox’s appeal in the face of consumers spending increasing amounts of time on their tablets and smartphones.
Microsoft has not given its Xbox console a major revamp since 2005; in the interim there has been a digital revolution which is having an increasingly big influence on traditional living room entertainment.
The surge of smartphone and tablet usage has given rise to the “second screen” phenomenon – effectively users looking at other content or interacting with social media such as Twitter and Facebook while watching TV – and the promise of internet-enabled smart televisions meant Xbox One had to be more than just a games console to compete.
Xbox One will allow users to flick instantly between game play and watching TV, or activities such as browsing the internet or Skyping, as well as adding interactivity to programmes, such as fantasy football elements to live NFL matches.
“The key innovation is the overlay with live TV,” says Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at research firm IHS. “It is all about maintaining Xbox’s relevance and keeping it at the centre of entertainment by offering lots of games, content and channels. In some ways it is a defensive perimeter because Microsoft, and Sony, need to stop encroachment in the TV entertainment space.”
He points to “ecosystem companies” such as Google, Apple and Amazon which offer products and content across a prolific range of devices, all of which could eventually damage Xbox’s core gaming business by taking a growing slice of people’s spend home entertainment time.
According to data from the BBC in March 8 million requests for TV shows on the iPlayer video catchup service came from people using games consoles, with pretty much zero growth in usage in the past year.
This compares with 81 million programme requests via mobiles and tablets in March, with portable devices growing rapidly from 15% to 30% of all iPlayer usage in the last year.
BBC iPlayer requests for programmes by device type – TV and radio (click for larger image). Graphic: BBC
IHS estimates there were 47m smartphones and 11m tablets in the UK at the end of last year, compared with 8.2m Xbox 360s.
“Smartphones and tablets are increasingly used for viewing – they are good for catchup content and video delivery. All this eats into [Xbox] play time and usage time on TV,” said Harding-Rolls.
While Xbox is aiming to be the gateway point for access to TV, analysts do not consider it to be a threat to broadcasters such as BSkyB.
Microsoft may have announced a big budget programming initiative with Steven Spielberg’s TV series based on the Halo game, but it is considered to be more of a PR stunt to appeal to gamers than the first salvo in the battle to become a major TV content producer and rights owner.
“What Microsoft is doing there around creating exclusive interactive content is very interesting and certainly a draw for consumers,” says IHS TV analyst Richard Broughton. “Unless Microsoft decides to take a big step and buys exclusive rights, which at this stage would be a risky bet and very territory-specific, it will be playing an aggregation role.”
In the UK the Xbox Live service has content from more than 20 content providers including Sky, the BBC’s iPlayer, LoveFilm, music video service Vevo and Channel 4′s 4oD.
By beefing up the XBox Microsoft is also aiming to head off the growing threat of smart TV manufacturers like Samsung aiming to be the gateway for internet and linear content, as well as the threat of cheap rivals such as Android-based TV-meets-gaming console Ouya.
Analysts concur that for all Microsoft’s talk of a making the Xbox One an “all-in-one” entertainment device it still boils down to one thing: games.
With a rumoured price of $400 (£265) in the US, and online games and technology store Zavvi in the UK offering a pre-order price of £400, the Xbox One is considered too pricey to appeal to a mass audience beyond its gaming heartland.
“At the price they are asking the TV elements are not enough to convince a mass audience to buy into it,” said Harding-Rolls. “It all comes down to high-end games – smartphones and tablets can’t replicate them, they are its strongest selling point.”
Microsoft is expected to make major announcements about its games lineup at the E3 trade show in the coming weeks.
“Xbox has gone for a sophisticated approach – it won’t be bringing out another Xbox for maybe 10 years and it has to be prepared,” says Heloise Thomson, a digital analyst at Enders. “It is about how they can make money subsequently, from selling content through the Xbox Live service and building usage. It will come down to games.”
Engineering can be as inspiring as space
The Guardian, Wednesday 22 May 2013 16.00 EDT
British astronaut Tim Peake (centre) with Vince Cable (left) and science minister David Willetts (right) at No 10 Downing St. Photograph: Sean Dempsey/PA
The new British space race has the potential to inspire young people and boost our economy. Space travel captures the imagination of budding young inventors and engineers – it is the stuff of childhood dreams. But there are other British industries at the forefront of technology that can inspire and propel young people towards careers in engineering and science. Without changing the way we teach, they will pass children by.
Engineers have designs on the future: fuel cells, driverless cars and super materials. Material scientists, for instance, delve into the depths of space at a micro-level, increasing the possibilities of product design and engineering. But children do not see this side of engineering. For them, engineers are men in greasy overalls fixing the boiler. We must bridge the gap in understanding – to plug the shortage of 40,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates every year.
Our design and technology curriculum must reflect the potential of a career in engineering. Our foundation has worked with secondary schools in Bath, donating industry equipment and setting pupils briefs to make something with a purpose – much like in industry. It connects the idea that engineers design something tangible. The results have been startling, with more than twice the number of students signing up to study design and technology. A world class D&T curriculum that fuels young astronauts and aeronautical engineers alike would replicate this on a national scale. The results could be quite remarkable – getting Britain inventing again.
Founder of Dyson and chair of the James Dyson Foundation
Two Iranians Are Barred From Seeking Presidency
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
Published: May 21, 2013
TEHRAN — The decision on Tuesday to bar the presidential candidacy of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution and a former president, shocked Iranians, particularly the 70 percent of the population that is under 35 and grew up when he served in many leading positions.
The Lede: Former President of Iran Disqualified From Race to Succeed Ahmadinejad, State TV Says (May 21, 2013)
“They say a revolution eats its children,” said Mehdi, 27, a teacher. “But in the case of Rafsanjani the revolution has eaten its father.”
The exclusion of Mr. Rafsanjani and another thorn in the conservatives’ side, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, could foreshadow even greater repercussions, analysts and commentators said.
Since its founding in 1979, the Islamic republic has been characterized by opposing power centers competing constantly and often publicly, a back and forth that gave ordinary citizens and private business owners the ability to navigate between the groups.
Barring further surprises, the winner of the June election will now be drawn from a slate of conservative candidates in Iran’s ruling camp, a loose alliance of Shiite Muslim clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders. That would put the last major state institution under their control — the first time since the 1979 revolution that all state institutions were under the firm control of one faction.
Analysts have long speculated — and some conservative clerics have confirmed — that the ruling faction is determined to abolish the office of presidency, which has served as a locus of opposition under the populist incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and before him the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who pushed for more personal freedoms. While by no means certain, it is now a greater possibility.
At the very least, the anti-climactic election campaign seems likely to further reinforce the alienation of the urban classes, which make up a large portion of the electorate and mostly gave up on politics after the suppression of the 2009 revolt following Mr. Ahmadinejad’s election, widely dismissed as fraudulent. A major boycott of the vote could further undercut the government’s already diminished legitimacy.
The remaining candidates reflect the different shades of gray that now make up Iran’s establishment, a coalition of conservative clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders known as the traditionalists. Out of the eight who were selected — out of the 700 hopefuls who signed up — only one, Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, has even slightly different stances from the traditionalists.
Three of the qualified candidates have direct links to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a close adviser and a relative by marriage; Ali Akbar Velayati, his foreign policy adviser; and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
A fourth, Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, has long presented himself as a technocrat but last week boasted publicly of having beaten protesting students as a police commander.
All of them say they are ready to fix the economy by using a “revolutionary mind-set” and to solve the nuclear dispute with the Western powers by convincing them that Iran’s position is just.
If history is borne out, one of the candidates, possibly Mr. Rowhani, who is close to Mr. Rafsanjani, will try to tap into votes that would have gone to the two disqualified candidates. Indeed, Mr. Rowhani has already said that if elected he would start direct talks with the United States, a popular theme among dissatisfied urban voters.
For many, though, the elections are shaping up as a shoo-in for someone close to Ayatollah Khamenei.
“Why are they even bothering to organize these elections?” asked a retired army officer, who like others interviewed for this article spoke anonymously out of fear of reprisals. “It seems everything has already been decided.”
It remains possible that one or both of the disqualified candidates will be reinstated. While they are not allowed to appeal, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the secretary of the Guardian Council, a panel loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei that made the decision, told state news media on Tuesday that Ayatollah Khamenei could reinstate them by decree. He did that in the 2005 elections with a reformist candidate, Mostafa Moin, who came in fifth.
There was no immediate reaction from Mr. Rafsanjani. One of his daughters, Faezeh Hashemi, who was released from prison in March after spending six months there for ”anti-regime propaganda,” did not return calls seeking comment.
Mr. Mashaei said he would fight the decision.
“I consider my disqualification as unjust, and will follow it up through the supreme leader,” he told the Fars news agency.
Just a week ago, a pro-Rafsanjani columnist, Sadegh Zibakalam, predicted that the thousands of government managers, university professors and others in the middle class who once supported the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, would rapidly fall in line behind Mr. Rafsanjani. “The feeling of happiness, fervor and enthusiasm that Rafsanjani’s registration created will in the coming days gradually turn into a serious determination throughout the country to turn up at the ballot boxes on 14 June.”
Instead, Mr. Rafsanjani’s disqualification appeared to mark the end of their aspiration to bring change through the ballot box rather than through street protests.
For Mr. Rafsanjani himself, another shot at the presidency at the age of 78 seems not only physically, but politically, impossible. Tuesday’s disqualification also seemed like an official repudiation of his ideas of a liberal economy and more freedoms.
The question remains of what President Ahmadinejad will do now that his protégé, Mr. Mashaei, has been sidelined. His legacy has been tainted by his close relationship with Mr. Mashaei, whom traditionalists call a “deviant” for what they view as his liberal ideas on Islam. Many in his faction have charges of corruption being drawn against them, and the Revolutionary Guards have already hinted they are ready to do whatever it takes, including the arrest of associates of Mr. Ahmadinejad, if they feel the revolution is under threat.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE BOOM OR BUBBLE?
BY JAMES SUROWIECKI
MAY 27, 2013
With the stock market setting new highs on a nearly daily basis, even as the real economy just slogs along, there seems to be one question on everyone’s mind: are we in the middle of yet another market bubble? For a growing chorus of money managers and market analysts, the answer is yes: the market is a house of cards, held up by easy money and investor delusion, and we are rushing all too blithely toward an inevitable crash. Given that we’ve recently lived through two huge asset bubbles, it’s easy to see why they’re worried. But in this case the delusion is theirs.
The bubble believers make their case with a blizzard of charts and historical analogies, all illustrating the same point: the future will look much like the past, and that means we’re headed for trouble. Smithers & Company, a London market-research firm, says that, according to a number of market indicators, stocks are, by historical standards, forty to fifty per cent overvalued. The bears admit that corporate profits are high, which makes the market’s price-to-earnings ratio look quite normal, but they insist that this isn’t sustainable. They think that earnings will return to historical norms, and that, when they do, stock prices will be hit hard. Today, after-tax corporate profits are more than ten per cent of G.D.P., while their historical average is closer to six per cent. That’s a vast gap, and it’s why bears believe that the market is, in the words of the high-profile money manager John Hussman, “overvalued, overbought, overbullish.”
It’s certainly unusual for corporate profits to soar during a slow recovery. But the argument for a stock-market bubble is flawed: when it comes to the role that corporations play in the U.S. economy, the present looks very different from the past, which means that historical comparisons to the nineteen-fifties, let alone the thirties, tell us little. The four most dangerous words in investing may be “This time, it’s different.” But this time it is different.
Take taxes: one big reason that after-tax corporate profits are much higher than their historical norm is that corporations pay much less in taxes than they used to. In 1951, corporations had to pay almost half of reported profits in taxes. In 1965, they had to pay more than thirty per cent. Today, they pay only around twenty per cent.
Then, there’s globalization. Many of the “American” companies in the S. & P. 500 are multinationals: a study of two hundred and sixty-two of them found that, on average, they got forty-six per cent of their earnings from abroad. This is a relatively new phenomenon. As late as 1990, foreign earnings accounted for only a small fraction of corporate profits in the U.S. Today, they account for almost a third of corporate earnings, and they’ve nearly tripled since 2000. So comparing corporate profits only to American G.D.P. yields a false picture of how companies are doing. The global economy, even with its current woes, is projected to grow more briskly than the U.S. economy over the next decade, so corporations will continue to benefit.
FROM THE ISSUECARTOON BANKE-MAIL THIS
Finally, the decline of unions and the sluggish labor market have enabled corporations to cut payrolls, thus keeping profits high. The result is that labor’s share of the economy has fallen steeply. Skilled workers are still in demand, but most workers have little bargaining power. This could change if there is another economic boom—during the tech bubble, in the late nineties, wages did rise briskly—but, even in that case, corporate profits would likely stay high, as increased sales would make up for narrowing profit margins.
The underlying issue is that in recent decades there’s been a shift in the U.S. economy: it’s become far more congenial to businesses and investors. The fundamental trends that have driven the profit boom are unlikely to be reversed. That doesn’t mean that companies are going to be able to keep slashing their way to profit growth. As Doug Ramsey, the chief investment officer for Leuthold Weeden Capital Management, told me, “It’s hard to see how companies can get profit margins much higher, unless they want to see massive labor strikes across the country.” But keeping profits where they are doesn’t look all that difficult, which makes stocks today quite reasonably priced. It’s still possible that investor hysteria could eventually inflate stock prices, or that investor panic could send them crashing, but there is no profit bubble and, for now, no stock-market bubble, either.
For investors, that’s obviously good news: there’s nothing wrong with profits, and the rebound of the stock market has helped restore many Americans’ battered finances. Still, it’s unsettling that companies and investors are doing so well while the economy as a whole is stuck in the mud. Throughout the postwar era, high corporate profits were coupled with rising wages and strong economic growth. Today, there’s a growing divide between the fortunes of corporate America and those of the majority of Americans. You might hope that people could make back as investors some of what they’re not getting as workers, but in fact only about half of Americans have any money in the stock market, and most of those who do have only small sums. What’s more, the crash of 2008 scared many ordinary investors out of the market, so they haven’t benefitted from the recent profit boom at all. “There’s a lot of residual shell shock at work, and that’s made investors still pretty gun-shy,” Ramsey said. The stock-market boom is real, but most Americans have been left on the outside looking in. ♦
ILLUSTRATION: CHRISTOPH NIEMANN