Catching up

I have some serious catching up to do. I just sat myself down and tried to turbo-read all unread (physical) magazines that have been stacking up for the past three weeks. That’s when it hit me: I haven’t watched the latest Star Wars movie yet. This is absurdly insane, and I really, really have to handle it this coming week.

I have been so caught up working with my wonderful wife for the past two weeks that I haven’t had time for much more than work and family time (much less blogging and playing computer games). Also, I really didn’t have time to look at all the extensive E3 coverage, much because I know I won’t have time to play the games. And I even went to E3 last year...

I am writing this from Gothenburg airport, waiting to go home after one of my best friends’ bachelor party. This is the second weekend in a row that I’m off to Gothenburg, and I must admit that I have come to appreciate this city much more in recent years. In many ways, Gothenburg has an air of self-respect that Stockholm lost during the bubble years. But, I have no doubt Stockholm will be catching up, too ;)


Books for fun

Wired just gave us a fun excerpt from iCon Steve Jobs : The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business - the unauthorized biography coming on Monday. It is about Jobs telling a story about how he and his family had a dinner discussion regarding whether they would buy an American or a European washing machine. That dinner discussion continued on every night for two weeks, after which everyone felt that they had gone through the subject and could decide to buy European.

Jobs told the story in an interview, explaining how important design is, and how important it is to really understand the functionality in order to be a good designer. "
You have to really grok what it's all about."

After the superb marketing trick of Apple throwing out all Wiley & Sons books from their stores, supposedly because the publisher didn’t agree to remove the word “iCon” in the title, I (and probably quite a few more people) immediately pre-ordered the book from Amazon. I can't help thinking that this actually could be yet another really clever conscious marketing trick from Jobs. Given that he would like to, and thinks he could, increase the hype around his person.

Anyway, after reading the excerpt I got so inspired, that I had to order the book’s predecessor by the same co-author: Steve Jobs: The Journey is the Reward. It's only available second-hand.

Pareto from Italy, Europe

I’m catching up with some of my economy studies, and remember the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. He came up with concept of a Pareto improvement: A change that can make at least one individual better off, without making any other individual worse off. Seems like a good thing to strive for. An allocation where no more Pareto improvements can be made is Pareto efficient.

Two Nobel Prize winners, Kenneth Arrow and Gerald Debreu, actually proved mathematically in their “first welfare theorem” that a free market economy is Pareto efficient. What does that mean? Does it mean it is economically superior? No. Thereby, it doesn’t prove that a Pareto-efficient society has a higher GDP than another, even though it seems very likely.

Distributive policy, or welfare, is all about how one can modify that free market economy away from a Pareto efficient state, towards a situation where the ones worst off get a better situation, while the ones best of get a worse situation. This is pretty important to Swedes, since we have the highest taxes in the world (which I wrote about before).

These values seems really hard-core to whether you are a socialist or conservative today. Either you support an increased distributive policy, with the argument that: “Minimizing the economic differences between individuals is the only descent thing we can do as human beings”. Or you support a decreased distributive policy, with the argument that: “Decreased distributive policies will benefit all. In the long run, the ones worst off will be better off in real terms”.

And that last thing seems to be the key. In real terms. Is it that simple, that our Swedish left-wing blogger Ali Esbati would like to see a world where we are worse off in economical terms, but economically equal? And that right-wing Johan Norberg would like to see a world where we are better off in economical terms, but economically unequal? And Daily Kos and Powerline?


Yet no Starbucks in India

An article in this morning's IHT covers the problems of newly-opened malls in India. Supposedly, people are just going there to enjoy the air-con and chill out. Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. I went to the Metropolitan Mall in March, the mall the article is talking about, and didn’t find the first of the two things I was looking for. I hoped that Marks & Spencer would be set up the same way as the UK “Simply Food” stores, since I couldn’t find a single convenience store anywhere in India.

I found the other thing I was looking for, though. A place to relax. Being a westerner and traveling in non-western countries can sometimes be quite cumbersome, especially if you bring along an infant. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in Delhi, Seoul, Bangkok or Kyoto - you can get this “cultural overload” anywhere. When a cultural overload occurs, I typically retreat into Starbucks. I feel as if I’ve been saved already before even stepping up to the counter. After half an hour or so, I slowly start feeling a tiny bit of guilt for not being able to cope better with the local environment, but instead spending valuable time in a americanized and totally adjusted milieu. That’s when I tell myself that it is OK to be weak, and buy another blueberry muffin.

Anyway, India is a rather poor country, and has a fairly large middle class population. They are not rich enough to go shopping seriously at the mall, but perhaps they can treat themselves with some small things once in a while. And if you ask the locals, they themselves agree that Delhi can drive you crazy with its smog, high temperature and intensity. If I would live in the neighborhood and be a student, I would probably go to the Metropolitan Mall all the time. And since there is no Starbucks to be found, I would probably settle for a chicken or veggie burger from McDonald’s. Every once in a while, at least.


iTunes finally in Sweden

I have waited for this moment for quite some time.

Right now I am listening to Weezer's "Beverly Hills". It is definitely not one of Weezer's best songs, but it is one of the first songs bought from iTunes Sweden that was launched this night/morning. I realized something was wrong (or right, rather) in my car this morning when the radio station had a giveaway for iTunes gift certificates.

It is even a bit cheaper than I had hoped for at 9 kronor per song. Thanks, Apple. But why didn't you launch it earlier?


To TV or not to TV

A couple of TIME magazines ago, there was a small ”Numbers” paragraph talking about how much time people in different countries spend watching TV. It said that the Japanese watched most television in the world: an average of 300 minutes per day, while Swedes watch TV “only” for 150 minutes per day, lowest in the study. Some googling made me find the secondary source from Reuters, where one can read that Americans come in second with a 265-minute average.

265 minutes? 300 minutes?!! That means 2-3 movies per day. (I am happy if I manage to get time for one single movie, which doesn’t happen that often anymore.) Anyway, the reason for my sudden TV interest is a combination of two things, namely 1) that my satellite receiver has stopped working since a couple of months back and 2) that the 2005 Ice Hockey World Championships finals will be held this week. The Ice Hockey WC was the sole reason to why I actually bought a satellite receiver two years ago.

Up until now, I’ve been totally OK not to use my TVs or my projector for “TV”, but only DVDs and video games. But ice hockey can turn men into something that they’re usually not ;) This gives me three (or four) alternatives:

1) Fix the satellite equipment + open up the subscription again
2) Buy a terrestrial digital TV receiver + subscription
3) Order IP-TV

To fix the satellite equipment doesn’t seem like an alternative, partly because my father-in-law is an architect and hates the antenna (“the best way to ruin your façade is to put one of those dish antennas on it!”) and partly because you the subscription model totally sucks. I don’t want to pay 300 USD for watching three games.

The second option, terrestrial DTV, would make our current government happy. They decided that everyone in Sweden that want to keep on using terrestrial TV have to buy digital receivers within a two-year period from now. The main reason to why everyone must make that switch is that DTV can host more channels in the same terrestrial spectrum, which is “good for everyone”. The crux is that, in order to view any of those other channels, you have to subscribe to them at pretty much the same price as you do for satellite or cable packages. And you have to get that subscription from the monopoly company Boxer, which is a joint venture between the state of Sweden and the private savings and life insurance company Skandia.

So, in effect, the government has spent, and will spend, billions of kronors in order to “be able to offer more channels in the terrestrial network”. But those “other channels” are not public service channels. Instead, Boxer is now unfairly competing with IP-TV from the ISPs, as well as satellite TV. The ISPs and the satellite TV companies paid for their infrastructure themselves, but Boxer gets a free ride from the Swedish taxpayers’ money.

The DTV project is the child of our former minister of culture Marita Ulvskog. Considering that our she used to be a member of the communist party, and that she has had a tough time legislating for Swedish privately owned media, it suddenly makes sense. She is simply trying to compete with the private media companies, but with some extra money from the taxpayers under the table. People should get all their media delivered through state-owned companies, right?

Option three is simply not an option, since my (partly state-owned) ISP Telia has failed to include anyone of BBC World, CNN and TV3 in the package. And TV3 is the channel that shows the hockey…

It seems like I’ll end up with option four: going to a sports bar and watch the games with friends.



Businessweek started a blog two weeks ago: Blogspotting. Blogspotting is "where the worlds of business, media and blogs collide", and during the two first weeks they have been blogging about blogging. From their latest entry:
It was almost embarrassing. At the BDI conference on blogging that's going on a couple blocks from here, someone asked if blogs were a big deal outside the U.S. The panelists barely seemed to know. PubSub founder Bob Wyman had to grab the mike and set the record straight.
He said that there were more bloggers in Korea, China and Japan combined than in the rest of the world.

That is truly interesting, considering both the different political environments and current/historical relationship towards each other that those countries have. Perhaps the best and most powerful way to increase long-term stability and security in the area would be to make a serious upgrade to Altavista's Babelfish, so that people from those countries could read each others blogs and discuss. Or am i being naïve? ;)

PS: One of Blogspotting's two contributing authors, high-tech journalist Stephen Baker, has interviewed me a few times regarding the Scandinavian mobile internet industry. It is fun to be able to write about his work for a change ;) The best of luck to you guys!