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August 29, 2004

Current blog favorites

I thought that it would be interesting to put up a list of my current favorite current-event blogs.

  • Instapundit - A well-respected, high volume site of libertarian / conservative writings (usually compilations of links to other sites), run by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee.
  • Belmont Club - Features interesting commentary, usually on the "big picture" implications.
  • Virginia Postrel - Author and former editor of Reason magazine.
  • OxBlog - Another high-volume news / commentary site.
  • Tech Central Station - "Where Free Markets Meet Technology", with essays published daily.
  • Marginal Revolution - Economics blog. "Small steps to a much better world."
  • Knowledge Problem - Another economics blog.
  • Microsoft weblog compilation. Not political, but it is interesting to see what is going on in the Microsoft software development world.
  • Slashdot. News and current events, from the Open Source software development world.

Bling Bling

These can be purchased from Marche Noir.

August 25, 2004

Google IPO (postscript)

I ended up putting a little bit of money into the Google IPO, via my discount broker (ETrade). I'm very pleased with the IPO results (shares purchased at $85 are now over $100). Some post-game analysis can be found at Marginal Revolution, a good economics blog.

The quick "pop" of the shares makes me somewhat itchy to sell, but I do continue to think that Google is a good company fundamentally, especially with its current position on the internet. (See my earlier thoughts.)

I believe that the Dutch auction was a great success, especially for small investors (like myself) that are not Wall Street insiders, and for Google itself. I found it fascinating that people were calling the Dutch auction a failure, but I still believe that Google itself reaped more per share than they would have if they would have let the underwriters handle the pricing. I wonder if much of the pre-IPO spin was due to Wall Street underwriters fearing the loss of their special privileges.

Congratulations, Google team! And use my money well...

August 08, 2004

PP2One, next version

I've updated my PowerPoint-to-OneNote import program PP2One, to be able to run with the release version of OneNote SP1. I highly recommend all OneNote users to get SP1, as it seems to fix a number of errors.

August 02, 2004

Role of Voting

Sometime last year, after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, an American journalist was interviewing an Iraqi about the prospect of voting. The Iraqi (having been educated with only Hussein's political doctrines, and probably genuinely curious) asked the question: "So now we are going to vote? What if we vote for a theocracy?" The American journalist (having probably been educated by statists in the U.S.) did not have an answer. This was unfortunate, because it offers a clear example of the role of voting within the framework of a free society.

How might I answer the Iraqi's query? I would say that nobody can vote away another person's rights. To vote for theocracy would imply that a portion of society would be denied their rights, and therefore illegal (or, if allowed by the political masters, wrong). Replacing a single brutal tyrant with a million little tyrants does not improve one's position.

Rights are based in our nature as a thinking, acting beings. In order to live, we must act. In order to act, we must think. Discussion of rights (REAL rights, not made-up ones like "the right to steal item X") leads to discussion of the role and limits of government. A limited government allows the growth of a civil society, a society formed of people acting voluntarily to produce what they value. Society is at its best when the productive minds of its citizens are free to explore all of the possibilities in nature.

So why do we vote, then? Couldn't the form of our government be different, as long as it respected our freedoms? Possibly, but history has shown that it would be an unstable situation. Monarchs (either as a single person or as a group of people) tend to accumulate power over time, and a democracy (or, really, a representative republic) has been shown to provide a check on that stealing of freedom. That is the reason behind electoral college, and many of the other structures that our Founding Fathers built into the government: Political change requires a massive consensus in the United States, and has to be embraced by many people over a wide geography. We are thus less likely to be swept away by feverish mistakes, like fascism or socialism.

So voting, at its best, is a way of providing a check on the growth of government. It is a necessary exercise, even if it is not fundamentally the source of the United State's success.

This entry was inspired by my friend Andrew Sincic's recent email.

August 01, 2004

Google IPO

Of course, everyone knows that Google is going to make an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock. This is big news both in the finance sector and in the tech sector, so naturally I would tend to have some interest in it. I've gotten an bidder's ID number, from their website , and maybe I'll make a bid on a share or two.

They claimed that the share price will be between $108 and $135, thus claiming that their company is worth up to $36.25 billion dollars. Given their 2004 net income (year ending June 30) of $143 million, that leads to a (trailing) P/E ratio of 253. (Assuming that I calculated P/E correctly, which is not necessarily true. I used their net income, and the total number of common stock outstanding.) This can be compared to Yahoo's P/E of 175 (according to my calculation, which I think may be wrong, because the Yahoo website claimed 121), or the S&P average P/E of about 30. So it looks like Google is somewhat expensive.

Is it worth the expense? I've always been a fan of Google. It is certainly an integral part of the web, right now. They will face competition from Microsoft, in the search sector. (That said, Yahoo has to do the same, and they are still rewarded with a high P/E. I judge Google as more important to the web than Yahoo.) Google knows the web like nobody else, and finds innovative ways of using it. An interesting bit of speculative fiction can be found in Paul Ford's story, which shows how Google could leverage this understanding of the web in an interesting way. (It also is a good introduction to the Semantic Web, which will play a role in our lives someday.)