Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This

Awesome, terrifying story of how we got into this mess:
And short Eisman did—then he tried to get his mind around what he’d just done so he could do it better. He’d call over to a big firm and ask for a list of mortgage bonds from all over the country. The juiciest shorts—the bonds ultimately backed by the mortgages most likely to default—had several characteristics. They’d be in what Wall Street people were now calling the sand states: Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada. The loans would have been made by one of the more dubious mortgage lenders; Long Beach Financial, wholly owned by Washington Mutual, was a great example. Long Beach Financial was moving money out the door as fast as it could, few questions asked, in loans built to self-destruct. It specialized in asking home­owners with bad credit and no proof of income to put no money down and defer interest payments for as long as possible. In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.
The End of Wall Street's Boom - National Business News -

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Technology as Leveler

Ray Ozzie Wants to Push Microsoft Back Into Startup Mode :

One incident in particular introduced Ozzie to the magic that comes when people connect via computer. He had taken a part-time assignment helping a professor finish writing some courseware. The prof lived on the other side of town, so Ozzie collaborated with him remotely. Ozzie came to know and like his boss, save for one annoyance. "He was the worst typist ever," Ozzie says. "He was very eloquent on email, but on Term Talk it was just dit-dit-dit, sometimes an error, but agonizingly slow." At the end of the project, the man threw a party at his house, and Ozzie discovered the reason for the typing problem: The professor was a quadriplegic and had been entering text by holding a stick in his teeth and poking it at the keyboard. Ozzie was floored.

I remember an experience myself back in about '95 when someone I was swapping 2600 cart sources with on Usenet turned out to be similarly disadvantaged. One of Darian System's first consultancies for setting up a cybercafe was with a registered blind entrepreneur. Both personal wake-up calls to how technology could change things for the better, and key to understanding why I remain, at heart, an optimist when it comes to this business.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Breaking Radio Silence

I won't even attempt to go into the myriad reasons for my extended absence here. I'll simply say sorry and move on. More soon.