Jonathan Brun

Shocked into Action

With Gore winning the Nobel and issues such as the droughts in Atlanta; it is becoming harder and harder for the United States to ignore today’s environment issues. Though actions are being taken at the state level, America – a supposed leader in technology and research – is lagging far behind European nations. It will take leadership from the new president to move the situation forward. As mentioned in this NYT article, Martin Luther King did not make a speech called “I have a nightmare”, it was “I have a dream”.

A large part of the laziness can be attributed to cheap oil, free water and abundant natural resources. People and their economies change only when the price point forces them to. Oil at 100$ has led many Americans to look at their SUVs in a new light. However, it is going to take much more than fuel efficient SUVs to turn the situation around.

Green technology may be a large part of the solution to America’s current economic woes. An interesting article in Harper’s outlined the possibility of America pumping tons of cash into green tech to boost the economy to compensate for the recent collapse of the housing bubble. Massive investment in clean technology would allow America to create knowledge intensive jobs and reduce their dependance on foreign oil.

America could launch a new “space race” towards sustainability. It would mobilize a population and place them at the center of the world stage. The original space race started with the shocking launch of the soviet satellite, Sputnik and led to a massive push towards technology and unimaginable dreams, it was a time when anything seemed possible. The offshoots of that effort created much of today’s economy – computers, networks, and modern day communication. We shall see if McCain, Obama or Clinton can launch a country towards sustainability as JFK launched the world towards the moon.

Published on March 23, 2008

Bus Optimization

Why are so many huge buses half-full.

Published on March 13, 2008

Online newspaper design (francais and english)

Here are some screen-shots of some English and French newspapers/news sites. In general, the English sites are less cluttered and easier to read. Despite the excellent content on sites like Courrier International, I have a difficult time finding and enjoying the content.

Note 1: Placing a banner on the top part of the screen eats up a lot of “first view” content space (4/5 french sites and 2.5/5 english ones do) . This obviously appeals to advertisers, but the real risk is that I miss an interesting story and leave the site. People do not tend to scroll down sites.

If the first thing I see is advertisement, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Does the print version of these papers place ads on the top part of the paper? I don’t think so. So why would you do it online?

I want to calculate the print to advertisement ratio on these sites, the amount of black ink to colour ink, and create a contrast-ratio map of the sites. Anyone know how to do this quickly?

Published on March 12, 2008

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter

Great letter, here are some of my favorite quotes:

A footnote: We paid the IRS tax of $1.2 billion on our PetroChina gain. This sum paid all costs of the U.S. government – defense, social security, you name it – for about four hours.

The best anecdote I’ve heard during the current presidential campaign came from Mitt Romney, who asked his wife, Ann, “When we were young, did you ever in your wildest dreams think I might be president?” To which she replied, “Honey, you weren’t in my wildest dreams.”

You may recall a 2003 Silicon Valley bumper sticker that implored, “Please, God, Just One More Bubble.” Unfortunately, this wish was promptly granted, as just about all Americans came to believe that house prices would forever rise. That conviction made a borrower’s income and cash equity seem unimportant to lenders, who shoveled out money, confident that HPA – house price appreciation – would cure all problems. Today, our country is experiencing widespread pain because of that erroneous belief. As house prices fall, a huge amount of financial folly is being exposed. You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out – and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight.

You will recall that in our catastrophe insurance business, we are always ready to trade increased volatility in reported earnings in the short run for greater gains in net worth in the long run. That is our philosophy in derivatives as well.

(I’ve reluctantly discarded the notion of my continuing to manage the portfolio after my death – abandoning my hope to give new meaning to the term “thinking outside the box.”).

Then, after a short recess, Charlie and I will convene the annual meeting at 3:15. If you decide to leave during the day’s question periods, please do so while Charlie is talking.

Stop by the NetJets booth at the Qwest to learn about viewing these planes. Come to Omaha by bus; leave in your new plane. And take all the hair gel and scissors that you wish on board with you.

Published on March 2, 2008