My 2010 FIFA World Cup Picks

I’m so excited that the World Cup is finally back.  Last time around I was disappointed that my pick (Germany) didn’t win… they looked so good, but they lost to the eventual Champions —Italy.  This year is shaping up to be very exciting.  There are a number of teams that are strong and could have a nice run (I’m looking at you Spain) or lose because of their coach (Diego staring at you).

So who will be in the Final? well I’m not sure, I haven’t picked beyond 4 because it’s tough.  My dream scenario would be England v Argentina because of the implications; who could forget the hand of God? or the best solo play ever? Just imagine how awesome it would be if they meet in the finals with Maradona as coach.

Now the more likely final scenario for me would be Brazil v Argentina, I really want Spain to win it all, but for some reason I don’t see them being able to get there.  It’s just that the South Americans have so much football history that they are the natural favorites.  In under a month we’ll see if my picks pan out and I will probably update my final pick once I see the first few games.

In any case here are my world cup picks:

Top 16 (bold win)

  • France v Nigeria
  • England v Ghana
  • Netherlands v Paraguay
  • Brazil v Chile
  • Uruguay v Argentina
  • Germany v USA
  • Italy v Cameroon
  • Spain v Portugal

TOP 8

  • France v England
  • Netherlands v Brazil
  • Argentina v Germany
  • Italy v Spain

TOP 4

  • England v Brazil
  • Argentina v Spain

I hope you all enjoy the month-long football event as much as I will enjoy it!

Background image based on picture courtesy of Shine 2010

Big Corporations vs Individuals

Social media is everywhere now, from TV shows, to print media, to corporate websites.  Everywhere I turn there is a “Follow <me/us> on <insert social site(s) here>” message.  I think this is because company’s have realized the impact that social media has on their bottom line.  I recently had to discuss a New York Times article in class about a “lesson” Boeing learned from the online social world.  Said article describes the aftermath of a letter sent to Boeing by an 8-year-old named Harry.  Boeing politely replied to the letter the same way it replies to all unsolicited letters (see reply).  After Harry’s dad, who happens to be CEO of a marketing agency, posted the letter on his blog and his twitter account the situation started to spread until some news outlets picked it up.  This social activity cause Boeing to react by issuing a sort of apology and invited Harry to visit their facilities.

This situation is just another example of how “social” is changing the way businesses deal with the customer experience. For the last five years or so, the emergence of social tools like facebook, twitter, digg and the now-less-relevant myspace, has enabled people to have a stronger voice. All of the sudden people can voice their concerns, complaints and preferences to an audience that may or may not agree with them. This is the “new” word-of-mouth, same concept as before just faster, louder and therefore more effective. This kind of empowerment has increased people’s sense of entitlement. People feel more than ever that companies must treat them with more respect.

The question raised in class was whether the whole situation was to “punish” Boeing or just a publicity stunt by Harry’s father… or both.  I don’t think John (Harry’s dad), or the people involved in one way or another, want(ed) to put Boeing back in line per se. I believe that they expected a friendlier customer experience from Boeing, or any company for that matter. It’s hard to determine if John intended to use the situation as free publicity, but the situation sure fits what his company offers. He created content and engaged the community the right way to create a buzz, enough to get the New York Times interested in the issue. The way the issue developed definitely helped him promote his image and his company indirectly.

As for the other questions raised in class (would you change airlines? and would airlines boycott Boeing?), I don’t think they are too relevant. First, Boeing’s action wouldn’t make me or a normal people switch airlines to ones who do not use Boeing planes. I do not feel offended by their action and finding other airlines would cost too much of my time, more than my perceived benefits. Second, airlines have limited options when it comes to airplane suppliers, limited options means that there’s not much airlines are willing to do to “support” a boycott. Harry’s issue is trivial when compared to the issue of changing airplane suppliers; however it would be interesting to look at the issues again if more people around the world support Harry.

Whether we like or not, as consumers or businesses, the barriers separating customers from the corporate world have shrunken. However, we should understand that as customers we can’t get everything we want; and as businesses we can no longer treat customers the way we’ve been doing for the last fifty years.

Thoughts On Health Care Reform

The infamous Obamacare has been signed into law and that’s that;  now the real fun begins.  Let me be clear, there are certain things that I do like that are on the bill, more specifically:

  • That insurers should accept customers who have preexisting conditions.
  • Children can be under their parents’ insurance up to 26 instead of 21.
  • No Lifetime cap.

I do understand that they cost money, however I do not mind paying a reasonable amount of money to have them.  Just as there are things that I like about the HCR (Health Care Reform) there are things that I do not like.  Many of the things that I’m against have been put in place to finance the operation i.e. everyone must have health insurance or else; penalties for employers who do not offer basic health care plans; etc.  Economically they make sense, it is a form to pay for health care without raising taxes directly.  However, it limits the options that a citizen has… it is in essence limiting the citizen’s freedom to choose.  This issue is being raised by many states (including my home state of Florida) who question the constitutionality of the new law.  Personally I think that the Supreme court will rule in favor of the bill.  Why? because they will see the current suit as a political move –plain ‘ol propaganda.  However, I see more suits down the road where they will bring a legitimate argument to the table and challenge specific sections of the bill rather than attacking it as a whole.  At least that’s what I expect/want to happen.

Poverty: Epidemic?

This is another unusual post for my blog, which is mainly focus on web development, but I felt that this a great way to try to make a little difference in this world.  The Blog Action Day “is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion”.  This year’s topic, poverty, an issue that surprisingly enough is still a major issue.

This world has been evolving rapidly for the last century, yet we have not been able to solve some of the basic issues that we’ve had for centuries.  Poverty is defined as:

deprivation, the denial of access to those things which make a life of dignity possible, including not only food, shelter and safe drinking water, but also such as ‘intangibles’ as the opportunity to learn, to engage in meaningful employment or to enjoy the respect of one’s fellow …
(poverty wiki entry).

It has existed almost as long as human kind has been walking around this earth.  Poverty is a disease, it is an abnormal condition for a human being to be in.  It is a condition that I don’t necessarily understand why it happens or why it only affects certain individuals.

In my mind I strongly believe that every person in this planet is born with the same capabilities of being successful.  However there is evidence that proves me wrong, some individuals in this world are born into unfavorable positions, about 6 percent of American children that are born into poverty make it out.  The condition of poverty is similar to every person in the world who is experiencing it, it does not matter religion, race or geographic location.

So why do I think its an epidemic?

  1. Almost half the world (around 3 billion people) live in poverty.1
  2. Child poverty rates have increased in the US and around the globe.2
  3. Poverty indirectly causes death and other diseases.

So how can we cure this disease?  As with many other diseases I don’t think there is a cure to wipe out this disease out of this world.  What we could do is try to bring it under control and help as much people as possible.  As I stated earlier I don’t understand every detail about poverty, so I cant give a full solution to the problem.  In my opinion the problem is of such a large magnitude and complexity that it requires a great deal of smart people to come up with some kind of solution that is both efficient and fair to everyone.  However a good starting point will be to rely less on the governments, more often than not governments come up with inefficient solutions and they execute their plans poorly.

In addition each government in this world has it’s own agenda and poverty is not on the top of the list.  That is why I believe private individuals and/or entities should take the initiative to try to reduce poverty.  There are multiple methods of  helping currently available like contributing to foundations such as UNICEF.  Other ways to help is by sponsoring or contributing towards scholarships for children who cannot afford education.

I know a lot of people already try helping using these methods, but I believe the number of people that can/should help can be increased dramatically.  But for the numbers to increase there must be some kind of motivation.  Some sources of motivation are already in place such as celebrities campaigning and goverments providing tax breaks.  However I think that both the celebrities and governments should rethink the way they do things.  They should try to come up with ways to attract a wider audience or to make a bigger impact on the population.

If we, those who are capable of giving, do not change our mindsets poverty will never be controlled or erradicated.  So today I invite you to learn more about poverty and visit Blog Action Day 2008 to read what others are saying about poverty.

The Economic Depression: What To Do?

For the last two weeks I’ve heard countless arguments, news and opinions on what is going on with the whole economy of the United States.  Many of the points that I’ve heard, read and seen are good but I think that the number of erroneous, nonsensical and just plain stupid comments is by far larger and more frequent.  I’ve tried to avoid writing on my blog, which I try to focus on web dev, about politics or economics even though that’s what’s hot right now.  Anyhow today I a few days ago I heard a discussion that just pushed me over the edge and I’ve decided to just do it.

So are we on an economic depression/recession? The National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.“  By looking at the current situation my best bet is that we are heading into one if we have not already started going down that path.  I can already hear some friends blasting me for my claim, however facts are facts, the whole economy has been slowing down.  However the trend does not surprise me, if we look at the history of  business cycles, we can see that every ten or so years this country experiences a recession.  The last recession was in 2001 so next one should be around the corner, however there are some recessions that are just felt harder than others and this time around I believe it is coming down hard.

Now the whole point of this post is not to analyze the situation to see if we are or not in a recession.  I’m also not interested in discussing why the current situation happened.  I see enough finger pointing and I just can’t bring myself to put the blame on a single entity or a group.  What I want to discuss is what we should do from now on.

The current theme of this electoral race is “CHANGE”.  Both candidates claim that they can bring change to this country and people claim to like/want change.  However deep down I feel that people don’t really understand what change really implies.  I don’t think people realize that this country needs more from them to start a change of direction than just voting for their favorite idol.  In my opinion President John F. Kennedy said it best “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

So what needs to change? for starters our attitude, we have to stop waiting for the government to take care of our problems.  People need to be accountable for their actions.  I firmly believe that if people where to think before acting a lot problems would be avoided.  However, some times things just seem too good to be true and instinct overpowers reason, which might result in a non desirable outcome down the road.  If the outcome is good we would usually give ourselves a pat in the back; if the outcome just bad, we will blame others and try to seek help from others to take us out of the hole.  I’m not against seeking help but we should not expect to be bailed out by others, we got ourselves in the problem we should get out by our own means.

At the same time we should also change our spending behaviors.  We are a country that lives far beyond their means and warning signs have been up for years (read Proof:Americans living beyond means).  I know some people will claim that this country is driven by spending and I will not disagree with that, however we should be smart buyers/spenders.  What I mean by smart buyer/spender is that we should buy accordingly to our means and our purchases should be comprised by the right balance of assets and liabilities.  The average person’s main or only “asset” is their home which in reality also carries a liability even if its paid off.  The smart buyer should acquire other assets that are more liquid than a home, such as stocks, bonds and/or shares at small/medium businesses.  By doing this you are distributing your eggs in many baskets with different levels of risk, return and liquidity.  All that can be done while at the same time spending the rest of your money on liabilities (cars, trips, etc), albeit at a smaller degree for some time.  One easy way to start moving in that direction is by setting up both short term and long term goals, as well as having a plan of where you would like to be by the time you retire.

Lastly a single person cannot change the 200 plus years of history of this country in 4 or 8 years.  In addition a single person cannot change the agendas of a party or parties, so it is false that the next president will be able to change as much as he pleases; it is just not possible to get everyone on board for these “changes”.  So if we want change in Washington, we the people have to bring the change.  The people of this country should be more involved in all political matters all the time, not just 90 days before election day.  We have to keep our representatives in Washington checked, we must make sure that they do what we the people want, not what the few want.

I’m just sick of the current situation, fortunately theres only a couple more weeks left on the election front and then comes the real deal… cleaning the US of A.

UPDATE:

Ramit Sethi from the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog just wrote a post, The Truth: What Obama and McCain wont tell you about your money, talking about some things that neither presidential candidate will tell the American people about the economic situation and their money.  There are some points that he covers that I would like to share:

Not all homeowners deserve to stay in their houses.
Renting is a perfectly reasonable alternative, but the idea of Americans “losing their houses” is politically untenable. Why? Because America perpetuates a mistaken culture of homeownership. Our parents tell us to buy a house. Our friends are impressed if we own a house in our twenties. The government literally encourages us to own a house by offering tax deductions. Homeownership is the American Dream! The truth is, if you’re making the largest purchase of your life, you need more than a slogan — you need to take the responsibility to do some research. (And note that you can’t advocate for increased homeownership and also argue for Americans to keep their houses. By not reducing the prices, younger people cannot buy houses at these inflated prices.)

Taxes: Pandering to ordinary Americans instead of telling them to stop spending on stupid stuff
The reason Obama and McCain spent so much time talking about taxes is that most Americans are historically horrible at managing their spending. Since they make a fixed amount of money (revenue) and can control only one thing (costs), both politicans use tax breaks to pander to voters. Most people have never seriously thought about how to make more money. Fine. But what’s even more outrageous is Obama and McCain’s complete lack of honesty about what people really need to do to weather the economic crisis. Did you hear either one plainly say, “You’re going to need to buckle down and save more?” Of course not. You might as well walk into a Dave Ramsey seminar and argue that credit cards are a useful tool. It’s a suicidal suggestion. But it’s true.

Americans don’t know how to be frugal — yet
Things will get more expensive. Taxes will eventually go up. They have to. Costs of ordinary goods will go up. They always do. If you’re expecting it to get easier, you’re wrong. The key is to make more money and cut your costs. Sadly, Americans are poorly versed in being frugal. You think it makes sense to buy a new car every few years? You think it’s normal to eat out 5 times per week (lunch and dinner)? You feel good about yourself for ordering water when you go to a restaurant, but you blew $50,000 because you didn’t take the time to understand your mortgage? You’re not frugal. But a few more years of an economy like this and things just might change.

These points are an expansion of the things that I believe are wrong with Americans and that NEED to CHANGE before we can get out of our current economic situation.