Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Success key: Never give up (but be very quick to change). Turning $15,000 into $64 million. Kissing $64 million goodbye.

Success key: Never give up (but be very quick to change). Turning $15,000 into $64 million. Kissing $64 million goodbye.

Uncle Lou's rule.
My Uncle Lou, who was in the construction business, once told me, "Show me a successful business person, and I'll show you someone who has been on their ass a number of times." What he meant, of course, is that most people who become successful do so only after failing several times. I certainly was not an exception to Uncle Lou's rule.

The ability to hang on when things are tough is mentioned in every "how to succeed" book or article. Most notable of all is probably Winston Churchill's famous "Never give up, never give in…" statement he made during England's bleak days in World War II.

You've got to be willing to change often.
Being able to hang on when there didn't seem to be a "light at the end of the tunnel" played a key role in both of my major entrepreneurial successes. But hanging on just for the sake of hanging might not get you very far. You've also got to be prepared to frequently change or modify what you're doing, so that hanging on through all the tough times actually accomplishes something — other than your demise.

I've been through a lot of difficult times.
At both Parsons Technology and I went through some very difficult times. There were times during both startups that I didn't see any possible way that what I was doing could succeed. Coupled with these dismal prospects was the fact that both times I was personally taking a financial beating. As if this wasn't bad enough, I also had to deal with all the "non risk takers" giving me that "that's too bad" look, or worse yet, shoveling patronizing sympathy my way.

Quitting is easy.
The easiest thing to do in the world is to quit and give up on your dreams (and quite frankly, that's what all the non-risk takers want you to do).

My vision kept me going.
What kept me going through the hard times was the vision I kept in my mind's eye and seldom let go of. This vision always dealt with the rewards of succeeding. While I thought often and long about what I needed to do to succeed, the vision that kept me going had nothing to do with the mechanics of success.

Money never motivated me.
Money is something that never motivated me with either business. Make no mistake, I like having money and I like what I can do with it. But money is not something that ever motivated me.

How the name Parsons Technology came about.
When I was trying to figure a way to make Parsons Technology work, my constant and personal "mind's eye" vision always had my company one day standing alongside other notable companies of the day. One of the companies that I thought was very cool was a hardware enhancement company named Orchid Technology. I liked their name and logo so much, that I sort of named my company after them. I did this by tacking the name Technology onto my last name, making Parsons Technology.

Laying in bed at night.
I used to lay in bed at night flipping through the pages of a prominent microcomputer magazine and looking at all the full page ads. I would see the ads placed by Orchid (always sharp), IBM, Digital Research and others. I would dream that one day my company would have full page ads right along side the other big players. I saw my company with lots of happy customers and very cool products. That was the vision that kept me going at Parsons Technology.

At the vision was a little different in scenario, but pretty much the same in substance. My Go Daddy vision was that one day everyone would know that was an internet company whose name meant very low prices, excellent products and outstanding service.

A "mind's eye" vision of success is critical.
For both Parsons Technology and, it was my "mind's eye" vision of success that kept me going through the hard times, and gave me the willpower to hang on. Without some sort of vision of success, similar to what I used, I don't believe that it's possible to succeed.

A willingness to change — and change often — is also imperative.
It would be nice if the willingness to hang on and a strong vision of success is all that's required to succeed. But that simply isn't true. You also must to be willing to frequently change what you're doing, and you must keep changing until you find that magic key that makes what you're trying to do actually work. Most likely, what finally proves to be successful for you will be far different than what you envisioned would work when you started. That's why you've got to be willing to modify what you're doing often. That way you will significantly increase the likelihood that you will one day iterate over to something that actually works.

Nothing works the first time.
I personally cannot think of too much that I've tried to do in either business that worked the first time I tried it (this is pretty much still true today for me). It is particularly true for starting any new business. It's difficult to get a business to work so that its products or services are actually purchased by consumers — who are requested thousands of times in all sorts of ways, each and every day, to buy other products.

An important key to success.
So just how does one succeed? You do so by hanging tough, continually trying new things and changing what you're doing until you find what works. The path to success is iterative and the stepping stones are called failures. You need to be quick to quit doing what isn't working, and keep doing what seems to be working. This I promise is a lot harder than it sounds, but it can certainly be accomplished. (If I did it twice from scratch, anyone can do it.)

Each and every failure is valuable.
I like to think of failures as learning experiences, or lessons. After all when you do something that fails, the one thing you know for sure is that what you did and the way you did it, didn't work. Over time that knowledge becomes incredibly valuable.

Thomas Edison failed often.
There's an old story about Thomas Edison that emphasizes this very point. It happened while he was trying to develop the dry cell battery, and had failed thousands of times. During an interview, a reporter commented that he must be very discouraged after so many attempts and coming away with nothing. Edison said that he hardly came away with nothing, because in fact, he now knew thousands of ways "not to build a dry cell battery." Edison, of course, went on with his attempts and eventually invented the dry cell battery.

I failed early and often with Parsons Technology.
My attempts to get Parsons Technology off the ground were similar in some ways. I tried all sorts of things early on to sell my MoneyCounts home accounting software. I tried selling it at different price points. First it was $99, then it was $69, then it was $49 and eventually $12. I tried selling it through small magazine ads. I also tried to sell it retail. I even tried to get it to sell through network marketing. Nothing worked. In fact, there was one time when I took every last bit of cash I had and purchased a quarter page ad in a popular magazine for the day. The ad cost me $3,000. After the ad appeared in the magazine, I received a total of about $100 in sales. You can be sure I learned not to do that again.

Cinderella was on my side.
When I started Parsons Technology, I did so with a desk in my basement and an IBM PC which I named "Cinderella." I had $15,000 to get the company going. It was made up of cash and credit available on my Visa and MasterCard. When I debuted with small ads, and priced the product at $99, nothing happened. In fact, I was so sure that I was going to get lots of orders that I hired an answering service to cover my phone and take the orders when I was sleeping, or otherwise unavailable. To my chagrin, I didn't get one order. Not a one. I couldn't believe how much I missed the mark. Nevertheless, the vision I had of succeeding kept me going and I never gave up. Instead, I tried different approaches with the advertising, tweaking this and tweaking that. Nothing worked. I lost the entire $15,000.

I always paid my bills.
One thing I always did was pay my bills. Never did I leave anyone unpaid, and never did I pay anyone late. So whenever I ran out of cash (which was often) I would simply make the company inactive until I found more money. I could do this because my wife and I were the only employees, and worked for nothing. Because the office was in my basement, other than the basic charge on the phone bill, we had the luxury of no fixed expenses.

I spent very little time feeling sorry for myself.
My sources of cash were savings, paychecks from my regular job, tax refunds, and credit cards. During the downtimes, I would stay busy working to make the company succeed. I would work on improving my software. I would also spend considerable time thinking about what I would do next. I spent very little time looking back or feeling sorry for myself.

I started again the next year with $25,000.
The following year I came into $25,000 and was able to get the company going again. I got this money from three sources. The first, and most significant source, was a bonus from my full time job. The second was from the tax refund associated with the earlier loss. And the third was from what I could squeeze aside from my paychecks after paying my bills.

Once again I lost it all.
So with plenty of cash (at least for me), and the software significantly improved, I went to work once again to make the company work. This time I dropped the price to $69 and then to $49. I purchased different types of magazine ads. I even paid to have retail packaging designed and printed. I used the packaging to give MoneyCounts a nice presence when I tried selling it at trade shows and through network marketing. In contrast with the previous year, I managed to sell a few hundred copies of the software, but nothing I tried actually made money. Some things worked a little bit, other things didn't work at all. Once again, I learned quite a bit about how not to market software. Eventually, and before that year was over, I lost the entire $25,000, and my little company became substantially inactive once again.

One of the biggest challenges.
Failing at anything can leave one feeling very alone. The biggest challenge to overcome when mitigating failure, comes from friends and family. Because I was always working either on my regular job or trying to make Parsons Technology work, I was just about always unavailable for getting together with friends and other activities. And because I continually put all my extra cash into my little company (and lost the cash) my family didn't do much outside of simply living our normal lives.

The "non-risk takers" never understand.
People who are not risk takers (this pretty much includes over 95% of the population) cannot fathom taking a chance to make a business work, and not having it immediately take off. They especially cannot understand being involved in something that fails repeatedly, and instead of giving up, trying to make it work (while risking all of one's financial worth) again and again. In similar fashion my friends and family, with a few rare exceptions (one of which was my dad, the other was my wife), did not understand why I kept investing all my time and money to make something work, despite the fact that it failed again and again. My secret — what I knew that the "non-risk takers" would never comprehend — was that money had nothing to do with it.

No one works really hard just for money.
Making money was the thing I thought about the least. The vision that kept me going was to build a successful company that had great products, was loved by its customers and respected by its peers. I believe that if I had simply been attempting the business to make money, it never would have been successful. No one works as hard as I did for money.

When you love something, it tells you all its secrets.
I worked as hard as I did because I loved the idea I was working towards creating. My father told me once (what a wise individual he was!) that for anyone to be excellent at what they were doing, they had to love it. He said that if you didn't love you job, you would never be better than average. When I asked him why this was the case, he told me something I would never forget. He said, "When you love something, it tells you all its secrets." This always made a lot sense to me. Those who love what they do, spend the extra time to learn the subtle nuances and all the not so obvious things that overall make a tremendous difference. The secrets I would soon discover were what made Parsons Technology come alive.

I kept going into the 3rd year.
After going broke the second year, I continued to work on the software day and night. I also was obsessed with coming up with a way to sell it. The product was now excellent. Anyone who tried it, loved it. But since this was such a small number of people, other than getting positive feedback (which I sorely needed) — it didn't generate much in the way of cash. I eventually accumulated a few thousand dollars through isolated sales trickling in from here and there, and from paycheck savings.

Excellent credit allowed me to take a big chance.
Because I always paid my bills and paid them on time, I had excellent credit. An opportunity came available at the last minute to purchase a full page ad, using two colors, in a small, now defunct magazine called The Computer Bargain Line. Unbelievably, the ad was on the front cover of the magazine (try buying the space on the front cover of any magazine today, things were very different back then!). Because I had good credit, I was able to take advantage of that deal. And because I had a few thousand in cash, I was able to pay to have a local advertising firm quickly produce the ad.

A drastic change in price and marketing made the company.
In putting the ad together, I decided that it was time to try something drastic. I lowered the price of the software to $12. I thought that when seeing the product advertised in a full page, 2 color ad, the product would have credibility. And because the price was a low $12, price wouldn't be a factor at all in making the buying decision. It would be an impulse purchase. To get the point across, the advertising firm came up with the headline "MoneyCounts….But in only costs $12!" Unlike every other I idea I had since starting the company, this time I was right. The ad not only worked, it worked in spades. I tripled my money, and more importantly, accumulated hundreds of new customers.

Then I tried direct mail.
I then did something else that would prove to be the big idea that turned Parsons Technology into a $64 million dollar success. I tried selling using direct mail. Over the years I accumulated a mail list of thousands of names. The list was the result of people that seen my many small ads (that really didn't work) and who simply wanted information on the product being offered.

I broke every direct marketing rule.
I had brochures printed that were nothing more than copies of the successful two color full page advertisement I just ran. I printed out labels for all those names, and my entire family (myself, wife, and three children) put labels on the envelopes, licked stamps (I sent them all first class —- at that time I didn't know about bulk mail) folded the brochures, put them in the envelopes, and licked them shut. I licked so many envelopes and had so much glue on my tongue, that I don't think I talked normally for at least two days.

Nothing has ever worked for me as well as that first mailing.
We hauled the envelopes over to the local post office, sent them on their way and waited. During the first few days after the mailing, we received a couple of orders back in the mail and over the phone. So I thought that maybe direct mail wasn't a good idea. Then something exceptional happened. We started receiving orders by the hundreds. In fact, we received over 3,000 orders from that mailing (which would have been over a 30% response). To this day, I received a better response from that first mailing than from any subsequent mailing I ever did.

Direct marketing became my specialty.
Parsons Technology then became a company that sold its software products using direct response marketing from magazine advertising and direct mail. The formula that worked was offering appealing products at very low prices, coupled with strong guarantees and excellent customer service. It was also necessary to offer products in a format that conveyed credibility. This was typically accomplished through four color advertisements, accompanied by charts comparing price and features with competitive products.

Sales create more sales.
As sales continued to grow, I learned something else incredibly important that helps me to this day. When customers purchase something from you, and have a good purchasing experience, they become eager to purchase something else from you. In this respect sales create more sales, and if handled properly, your customer base becomes a wonderful source of repeat sales. Best of all, because there is no advertising to purchase to reach your customer base, it is very economical to market to them, and the resulting sales are your most profitable.

I decided to quit my day job.
Realizing the opportunity, I went to work to create products in addition to MoneyCounts. The product that my new customers asked for was software to complete a personal income tax return. So I went to work to create one. At that time I was still working two jobs. I was working full time at my regular job and also full time at Parsons Technology. As you might guess, I got very little sleep. Since there was no way I could write the new software and do both jobs, I quit my job at the leasing company.

A tough decision.
Quitting my full time job was a tough decision for two reasons. First, I was walking away from a job I knew how to do and was quite successful at. The job paid well, and was within a 15 minute drive of my house. In essence I was giving up my safety net. Second, it was early October and I had a bonus agreement in place that provided a generous bonus. I had already earned the bonus — all I had to do to get the money was to be employed on December 31st of that year. The bonus would be in the neighborhood of $30,000. Since staying at the leasing company for that additional two and half months meant I wouldn't be able to complete my new tax software, I decided to forget about the bonus, and quit. I was able to make this decision because it was never money that motivated me; I was interested in building a successful company. My wife at that time, to her eternal credit, understood the implications of this decision, and supported my decision to quit and devote all my time to Parsons Technology.

Getting our first real office.
I worked around the clock at Parsons Technology, and although I shipped it late, I was able to write a tax software program that worked. The company made about $50,000 on the tax software, despite shipping it a month late. And bang! We were now in the tax software business. It was at this time that we moved out of the basement and got our first real office.

I hired inspired and excited engineers.
I continued to develop and add new products whenever I had the opportunity. To do so, I started hiring software engineers. Whenever I met someone who appeared to love developing software, I hired them. I never paid much attention to whatever formal education they had. Instead, I was more interested in what they knew about writing software and I looked for that light in their eyes that always seemed to be there when they had a passion and excitement for what they were doing.

Our development effort was second to none.
Eventually, the development effort at Parsons Technology was second to none. When I sold the company, we were shipping a new product or major upgrade every 5 and a half calendar days. When compared to the software development efforts in Silicon Valley, our cost to develop software was 1/3 of what they were doing and our error rate (measured in terms of bugs found in shipped software) was also 1/3 of what they were doing.

My vision came true.
Parsons Technology's customer base grew to over 3 million names and we had close to a 4% share of the North American software market in terms of units shipped. Our employee count grew from just Martha and myself working in the basement, to almost 1000 employees. The company made money, usually a significant amount, each and every year after I moved it out of the basement. Martha and I sold it to Intuit in 1994, ten years after I started it, for $64 million dollars. By any measure, Parsons Technology would have to be considered a success.

So you see, it was constantly trying new things and modifying what I was doing that made the company work. And it was hanging on, never giving up despite some very tough times, until I was able to discover the secrets to being successful. It was pretty much the same thing with

My ex-wife deserves a lot of the credit for making Parsons Technology a success.
My first wife helped me make Parsons Technology a success. In addition to being a wonderful mother to our children, she always worked as hard as I did. She supported me every step of the way. In fact, she was always there with moral support when no one else believed that what I was doing made sense. There's no doubt in my mind that if Martha was not by my side, Parsons Technology would never have been the success it eventually became.

Kissing the $64 million goodbye.
As for the $64 million, I used my share to start and get it off the ground. I also took a pretty good beating in the stock market when the dot com stocks crashed. But that's another story that is best told in an earlier blog article titled, "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed. Parking cars for a living."

The above was taken from Bob Parson, CEO and Founder of 's blog :

Monday, December 26, 2005

Liverpool: The greatest team ever

Liverpool: The greatest team ever

Now it's official: 2005 Champions League winners Liverpool are the greatest team in the history of English football. The oldest bar-room debate in the country has finally been put to rest by number-crunchers at top actuarial firm EMB Consultancy of London.

Premiership clubs, such as Charlton Athletic, have hired the consultancy to analyse exactly when and where they are most likely to fall foul of injuries.

Now the firm has ploughed through the annals of English football -- and produced a conclusion that will no doubt make Manchester United fans around the world bristle.

Boosted by their 2005 Champions League triumph, Liverpool amassed 615 points according to EMB's special scoring system. Manchester United are second with 605.

Though separate statistics have found Arsenal to be the most successful league team of the 20th century, the Gunners meagre success in Europe leaves them only third on 540. Fans of Glossop North End can content themselves with a single point and 72nd and last place on the list.

''The scoring system is actually biased toward Manchester United's dominant years of the nineties,'' says Actuarial Consultant Patrick Nolan, the study's compiler. ''If you give historical results equal weighting, they actually fall a poor second to Liverpool.''


Arguments are sure to rage on. But whichever way you look at it, bragging rights go to Anfield, says EMB.

''For all Manchester United's dominance of English football in the 90s, it is still hard for them to claim success over the consistent trophy-winning ability of Liverpool,'' says Nolan.

Clubs amass points according to where they finished in the top five of the league. Winning the championship garnered 5 points until 1915, 7 till 1939, 12 to 1992 and 15 since 1993. European Cup winners were awarded 8 points till 1987, and 10 points since. Points are also awarded for cup success.

EMB leaves no stone unturned. Winning the UEFA Cup before 1999, for instance, was worth more than winning it post-1999 when it lost much of its prestige.

Top 20 list Points

1 Liverpool 615

2 Manchester United 605

3 Arsenal 540

4 Everton 402

5 Aston Villa 356

6 Tottenham 350

7 Chelsea 315

8 Newcastle 288

9 Leeds 270

10 Manchester City 269

11 Wolves 238

12 Sunderland 255

13 West Brom. 220

14 Nottm. Forest 219

15 Sheffield Weds 208

16 Derby 191

17 Blackburn 188

18 West Ham 184

19 Bolton 172

20 Leicester 166

Source: EMB

soliedariedade ~ solidarity

soliedariedade ~ solidarity, originally uploaded by jcfilizola.


Lunchtime, originally uploaded by sparty lea.

Which set applies to me?

Which set applies to me?, originally uploaded by REALJimBob.

Almost at work, this confusing sculpture sits in the middle of a roundabout just outside of Canary Wharf. I'd been meaning to photograph this for ages now and the DILO seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Morning on the Lake.

Morning on the Lake., originally uploaded by BamaWester.

A Discovery

A Discovery, originally uploaded by More Altitude.

I found bunch of flowers strewn along the beach. I don't know why they were there. I found myself wondering who left them. A gift from a lover, left behind, distracted by passion? An apology rejected? Memories of a broken heart? In another time, another place, maybe even washed ashore from a shipwreck. I placed this one on the rock. It had been floating in the water a few inches away, clearly carelessly dropped. I wonder what the next person to walk by will think when they see it, placed with deliberate precision over a slimy rock. Curious.

Imitating mommie

Imitating mommie, originally uploaded by Walmink.

Saying a lovely goodbye

Saying a lovely goodbye, originally uploaded by mkm3d.


Natal, originally uploaded by juarezam.

A despeito de tudo

A despeito de tudo que lhe acontecesse acreditava na paz. Pensava sempre que o jeito manso e tranqüilo tinha mais resultado que a força da violência.

Apreciava a paciência. Não desistia do bem e perseverava nas suas idéias.

Estava sempre em sintonia com as pessoas. Decifrava-as rapidamente. Bastava olhar e já sabia. Parece que tudo entendia.

Compreendia a linguagem do coração, e a praticava em todos os dias. Não apenas falava de amor, carinho e ternura. Mas em cada ato e atitude sua eles estavam presentes.

Parecia ser uma linguagem universal e que a quase todos sensibilizava. Menos alguns que acreditavam e persistiam no ódio.

E assim seguiu seus dias...E nos deixou como exemplo a sua vida e suas opções.

A decisão de seguir suas idéias ou rejeitá-las pertence a cada um que se encontra por aqui, neste planeta, que agora sabemos ser azul.

Pra que tingi-lo com o vermelho do sangue que resulta da violência?

Pratique a paz no seu dia a dia. Com seus amigos, colegas e em sua família. Ela acontece em pequenos atos de carinho. Mora em pequenas gentilezas.

E assim, com estes pequenos tijolinhos vá construindo a sua paz.

Você faz parte do todo, e o que você fizer reflete no conjunto.

Que seja então um reflexo composto de amor, paz e carinho.

Juarez A Motyczka

Blue ice tunnel

Blue ice tunnel, originally uploaded by Emma Devine.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Humor:Children’s Letters To God

5. Humor: Children’s Letters To God

Dear God:
Are you really invisible, or is that just a trick?
-- Lucy

Dear God:
I want to be just like my Daddy when I grow up,
but not with so much hair all over.
-- Sam

Dear God:
Did you mean for Giraffe to look like that
or was it an accident?
-- Norma

Dear God:
I keep waiting for Spring, but it never come
yet. Don’t forget, ok?
-- Mark

Dear God:
You don’t have to worry about me. I always
look both ways.
-- Dean

Dear God:
Instead of letting people die and having to make new
ones, why don’t you just keep the ones you got now?
-- Jean

Dear God:
I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church.
Is that ok?
-- Neil

Dear God:
I think the stapler is one of your greatest inventions.
-- Ruth

Dear God:
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for
was a puppy.
-- Joyce

Dear God:
I bet it is hard for you to love everybody in the whole
world. There are only 4 people in our family and I
can never do it.
-- Nan

Dear God:
If you give me a Genie lamp like Aladdin,
I will give you anything you want except my
money and my chess set.
-- Raphael

Dear God:
Maybe Cain and Abel wouldn’t kill each other so
much if they had separate rooms. It works with my
-- Larry

Is It Worth Doing Good or Should We Just Follow the Tide?

This is the Christmas season. Everyone is having fun. But there are still people living in the cold, fear and poverty. There are hungry people in the world even when we're eating our cookies and dinner. Why arent we helping? Is it because we think that we should help everyone since we're at it. Does this make us feel overwhelmed that we decide not to help.

When I feel like this, I always ponder on the parable below :

There is a wonderful old story about a man walking along a beach after a great storm. Thousands of starfish have been washed up on the sand and are dying in the morning sun. As he walks along, he stoops to pick up one starfish after another and toss it back into the ocean. After watching for a while, a stranger asks what he's doing, since he can’t possibly save all the thousands of starfish. The man quietly bends down, picks up one more fish and tosses it gently into the water. He then replies, “I can’t help all of the starfish in the world, but I can make all the difference in the world for that one.”

At what temperature does your breath become visible in the cold?

There is no fixed air temperature for frosty breath. As meteorologist Tom Skilling explains, two factors determine whether we can see our breath in cold weather: temperature and humidity.

Exhaled air has relatively high amounts of moisture from our lungs. When this warm, moist air is chilled, the moisture condenses. The exhaled air is chilled below its saturation temperature, or dew point.

For big dramatic clouds of frosty breath, it helps to have humid air. Why? This stops the condensation cloud from evaporating too quickly. The water droplets will last longer in moist air, because the air is already fairly saturated.

Here's a nifty piece of frosty breath movie trivia, courtesy of IMDb. The outdoor shots in "Dog Day Afternoon" were filmed during the winter, but the story was supposed to take place during the summer. So to make their breath less visible, the actors held ice in their mouths before filming.

If our normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, why do we feel uncomfortable when the air temperature is 98 degrees?

According to Yahoo! Health, body temperature is a measurement of the body's ability to "generate and get rid of heat." This definition is key to understanding why temperatures in the 90s can be downright uncomfortable.

Think of your body as a steam engine. Under normal temperatures, it generates more heat than it needs. It's generally agreed that room temperature (68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit) allows the body to dissipate "waste heat" with the least amount of effort.

How so, you ask? Because heat naturally transfers from warmer to cooler environments. Room temperature lets nature do its thing with minimal effort on our part, but when the ambient temperature rises, it takes more energy to get rid of excess body heat.

When the outside temperature approaches our body temperature, there's no natural convection cooling mechanism at work. The body has to work incredibly hard to dissipate heat, which it does through the lovely and aromatic act of sweating.

Who came up with the theory of six degrees of separation?

The theory that everyone in the world is separated by at most five acquaintances was first proposed in a 1929 short story by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy. The story was called "Chains," and while the six degrees theory was a purely fictional conceit, the idea proved popular.

In 1967, psychologist Stanley Milgram tried to test the theory by sending several letters to random people in the Midwest. The letter featured the name, address, and occupation of a single person on the East Coast; participants were asked to forward the letters to the people who they thought were most likely to know the person. It took an average of five intermediaries to reach the target.

The experiment came into some scrutiny afterwards, but the results were published in Psychology Today and gave birth to the phrase "six degrees of separation." Playwright John Guare popularized the term with his play, which later became a film starring a then up-and-coming Will Smith.

But get this -- the original 1967 experiment was repeated in 2001 with email, and the same results came back!

How did the habit of calling dogs "man's best friend" begin?

We don't know exactly when "man's best friend" took off in American vernacular. But the phrase's pedigree is widely attributed to Senator George Graham Vest of Missouri (1830-1904).

Before his career in Congress, Vest was a hotshot lawyer and orator. In Burden v. Hornsby, a controversial case of man shoots dog that reached the Missouri Supreme Court in 1870, Vest represented the plaintiff, closing with the now famous "Tribute to the Dog" speech. Part of the speech states thusly: "The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog."

Over time the saying got reduced to a more bite-sized portion. Today, "man's best friend" is guaranteed to be nipping at your heels wherever the topic of canines comes up -- be it science TV shows, newspaper articles, or movie titles.

Has it become a cliché without meaning? One wonders whether Senator Vest ever owned a pit bull or a Chihuahua. But, given the long and loyal history of humanity and the doggie kingdom, we agree wholeheartedly with Senator Vest -- Spot, Rex, and Fido will probably never let us down.


Mitsubishi may have Proton build its vehicles

Posted Dec 24th 2005 10:00AM by Joel Arellano

Mitsubishi Motors is currently in talks with several Malaysian manufacturers, including Proton and Sime Darby, to manufacture its vehicles. Such locally produced vehicles (called Completely Knocked Down model or CKD) would be for domestic sale only as Mitsubishi seeks greater market share in Malaysia.

“This new Mitsbubishi showroom will certainly give Mitsubishi a greater presence in the local market. Despite the many challenges in the auto market, we are pleased that we are on track for a bigger customer base next year,” said Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia CEO Fumihiko Minami.

Currently Mitsubishi has between 1-2% share of the Malaysian market. Once a partner has been selected, the company hopes to have its vehicles rolling out by 2007 or 2008.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

What Really Went On at the Champions League Finals of 2005

A chance to be heroes

The Champions League final was the football story of 2005. In this extract from his book, A Season on the Brink, Guillem Balague talks to all the key men in the Liverpool dressing room about what happened at half-time, the men who, in 15 minutes, amazingly persuaded a team who had traipsed off the pitch in despair to pull off the most stunning triumph in the European Cup's 50-year history

Sunday December 18, 2005
The Observer

European Cup final. Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul. 25 May 2005. Seven minutes left in the first half. Milan, already 1-0 up through a Paolo Maldini goal in the first minute, launch a counterattack with Liverpool distracted by an appeal for handball in the Milan area. Kaka sweeps forward, feeds Andrei Shevchenko on the right, his cross is turned in by Hernan Crespo at the far post...

'I immediately started to note down in my handbook what we were going to do in order to overturn a 2-0 deficit,' recalls the Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez. 'My thoughts at that time were that we were still alive in the game. I reckoned that at only 2-0, just one goal in your favour can grab you the momentum. But of course while I was busily writing down my notes Milan went and scored their third.' Sure enough, two minutes before half-time, Kaka evaded Steven Gerrard and played a wonderful ball forward to Crespo, who chipped Jerzy Dudek. Milan 3 Liverpool 0.

A chance to be heroes

The Champions League final was the football story of 2005. In this extract from his book, A Season on the Brink, Guillem Balague talks to all the key men in the Liverpool dressing room about what happened at half-time, the men who, in 15 minutes, amazingly persuaded a team who had traipsed off the pitch in despair to pull off the most stunning triumph in the European Cup's 50-year history

Sunday December 18, 2005
The Observer

European Cup final. Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul. 25 May 2005. Seven minutes left in the first half. Milan, already 1-0 up through a Paolo Maldini goal in the first minute, launch a counterattack with Liverpool distracted by an appeal for handball in the Milan area. Kaka sweeps forward, feeds Andrei Shevchenko on the right, his cross is turned in by Hernan Crespo at the far post...

'I immediately started to note down in my handbook what we were going to do in order to overturn a 2-0 deficit,' recalls the Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez. 'My thoughts at that time were that we were still alive in the game. I reckoned that at only 2-0, just one goal in your favour can grab you the momentum. But of course while I was busily writing down my notes Milan went and scored their third.' Sure enough, two minutes before half-time, Kaka evaded Steven Gerrard and played a wonderful ball forward to Crespo, who chipped Jerzy Dudek. Milan 3 Liverpool 0.

'Kaka played a magnificent first half,' says the Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. 'With the football we had produced, it crossed my mind the final could become another "Athens", like that 4-0 that Milan produced against Barcelona in 1994. We really thought this could become a big goal-scoring match because we don't have the usual Italian mentality. The match would have died if we closed the doors, if we decided to defend, but that is not what Milan is about.'

What happened next?

Lee Marten (fan at the Liverpool end): 'When Crespo put number three away, Turkish lira notes of varying denominations began to cascade down on us from a supporter in the upper section. This guy had obviously seen enough and must have just thrown away all his money in disgust. Quite a few people around us went away richer than when they arrived. A friend of mine reckons he managed to salvage the equivalent of about £50. I came away with a 10 lire note, which was on the floor between my feet.'

Paco Herrera (Liverpool Chief Scout): 'In football everything is just a repeat of something which has happened before. The key thing is to understand what you've done wrong and learn not to repeat errors. So when they score a second goal against you and then a third with similar mistakes, you reckon that it's all going to end in tears. Truthfully, at a time like that, it takes a moment or two to start assimilating what has happened and what to do about it because you are so pissed off.'

Gennaro Gattuso: 'I went to the changing rooms mad with rage because I had seen Andrea Pirlo doing a nutmeg just before the break. I let everybody know that was definitively not the way, that we couldn't forget there was 45 minutes to play'

Djimi Traore: 'Leaving the pitch, I thought, "It's dead, it's finished."'

Jamie Carragher: 'Walking to the dressing room, I was thinking about the supporters, my family and the great name of Liverpool. It was embarrassing, really. In a cup final, normally, no matter if you're the worst or best team, it's always a tight, tense game, 1-0 or whatever, no matter who's playing. To be 3-0 down at half-time in a cup final was embarrassing for us and for the name of the club. I didn't want it to go to 5-0 or 6-0. At this point, some of my mates were getting text messages from Evertonians.'

Rafa Benitez: 'I walked into the dressing room rehearsing what I was going to say to them, but also how I was going to say it. It's really difficult to come up with all the things you want to say in a foreign language. It's five minutes thinking about the tactics and changes. I was walking down the tunnel trying to find the right English words.'

Djimi Traore: 'It is not in the English mentality to gloat if you are 3-0 up during the game. In England you learn that you stay focused till it's over. But that night the Italians "enjoyed" themselves too much at half-time. I saw different things, clapping, hugging, as if they had already won the game. I never said they were actually celebrating, but I saw signs.'

Xabi Alonso: 'Celebrations? I didn't hear any.'

Rick Parry (Liverpool Chief Executive): 'It's a good story, but it doesn't sound like Milan at all. You can see some clubs doing that, but Milan are a proper club, professional and respectful. I mean, I wasn't down there, but obviously I was surprised at that being said.'

Paolo Maldini: 'We are experienced players and there were no celebrations in the dressing room during the interval. We are a side that accepts the result on the pitch. But we do not accept what Traore was reported to have said, which was given a lot of prominence.'

Carlo Ancelotti (Milan Coach): 'To see that story published hurt more than the defeat. Our captain has denied it and deserves to be listened to because he's an example of loyalty all over the world. Our dressing room was completely separate from Liverpool's.'

Gennaro Gattuso: 'It's an insult to hear someone, whose name I don't remember, say that people like Maldini or Costacurta were celebrating at half-time. In fact, Ancelotti in the half-time team talk said he was worried and talked about continuing playing together, with the same intensity, just as it happened in the first half, because if an English team scores a goal, with their support, that leaves the game open again. I love English fans, they can help you change the most impossible situations.'

Rafa Benitez: 'People told me that the Italians did make some comments among themselves. But I didn't hear the gloating that some have spoken about.'

Jamie Carragher: 'No I never heard anything. I think the media jump on things and make a big deal out of them. I don't know if Djimi heard something but I certainly didn't. We're talking about a top professional team. I can't see them doing that. Although I heard Gattuso was meant to have done something when he came back out, gesturing to their fans or something? Anyway, who could blame them? I would have been doing cartwheels myself with 3-0 at half-time.'

Steven Gerrard: 'When we got to the dressing room, my mind went walkabout. I was sitting head-in-hands. All sorts of things were going through my head. It was weird.'

Rafa Benitez: 'We had talked on the way to the changing rooms about what we were going to change and how to cheer the players on. Problem is it is already tough enough motivating a team losing 3-0 when I'm speaking in my native Spanish - in English it is much, much tougher. But we had already talked so much about what to expect in this match and how to deal with either a positive or negative turn in the game that the words came more easily to me than I could have hoped for. You cannot plan for the extreme, though, so the most important aspect was to lift their spirits after such a situation. So I started with a motivational speech to get them fired up.

'I demanded that they start working again and try to solve some of our problems. I emphasised that there were still 45 minutes left and, above all, we had to come off the pitch proud of ourselves at the final whistle because we had done, literally, everything within our power. I reminded them that it had been a hard, hard battle to reach such a massive game and that we owed something pretty important to all the Liverpool people around the world but most particularly in the stadium who were expecting much more from us than what we'd shown so far. I told them that if we scored a goal then we would totally change the course of the game. They had to understand that the key to turning everything back in our favour was to score that first goal... and quickly. I emphasised that this was the most important challenge they faced. I've seen posters that have been printed and pinned up on pub walls in Liverpool, which claim to have my exact speech set down word for word. Well, even I can't remember exactly, but I said something like it. It was the general idea anyway ...'

The pub version is:

Don't let your heads drop.
All the players who go on the pitch after half-time have to keep their heads held high.
We are Liverpool, you are playing for Liverpool
Do not forget that.
You have to hold your heads high for the supporters.
You have to do it for them.
You cannot call yourselves Liverpool players if you have your heads down.
If we create a few chances we have the possibility of getting back into this.
Believe you can do it and we will.
Give yourselves the chance to be heroes.

Rick Parry: 'I don't think his speech was Churchillian or anything massively inspirational. That's not Rafa's style. He is still a leader for sure, but he's not generally one to shout. He is more tactical. He focuses on people's jobs and things that have to be done, rather than on grand emotional exhortations. He'll say, "Hang on, you are good players, let's change things." He gives people confidence. You don't have to shout to do that.'

Xabi Alonso: 'Rafa didn't raise his voice at all. All he said was that we had 45 minutes left and he was automatically looking for tactical solutions which would help us in the second half. Nobody got blamed, nobody got a bollocking.'

Rafa Benitez: 'After giving them this motivation talk I started to write the new team formation on the whiteboard. I told Traore that he had to get changed and that Hamman was coming on for him.'

Djimi Traore: 'I took my boots off after I was told I was not going back on.'

Pako Ayestaran (Liverpool Assistant Manager): 'We had to achieve two things. First we had to change the pattern in the middle of midfield where Milan were doing the most damage. So we had to put on a player who could hold a good line and control the flow of the ball. Since we hadn't had enough power and movement in that area it was obvious to go for Didi Hamman. The second thing was a basic - the players had to believe in themselves again. If Rafa has to give somebody a bollocking he'll do it and when he has to bawl and shout he'll do that, too. But it's rare. Above all, he is an analytical man. These types of situations call for more than just hammering the players until your aggression and your attack on them gets their character and spirit going again. We had to convince the players that the situation was merely a result of our errors and the fact that Milan had taken advantage of them so well.

'We needed to examine the problem, come up with an answer and then make the players both understand it and believe in it. From then on it would be vital to score a goal within the first 10 or 15 minutes after the break.'

Jamie Carragher: 'The next big commotion was that the boss had brought Djimi Traore off. Djimi had his boots off and was just about to get in the shower, when the physio, Dave Galley, announced that Finnan was injured.'

Paco Herrera: 'The physio told us that Stevie Finnan was injured and shouldn't go back out but the player thought otherwise and demanded to carry on. He was very upset and screamed he wanted to stay on. Being the boss, Rafa needed to take a speedy decision.'

Jamie Carragher: 'Finnan could have carried on because he'd had that injury before the game, but just out of the blue the manager said, "No, we're changing. I'd have to take him off in 20 minutes anyway." So he took him off, and Traore stayed on. The physio probably played a bigger role in the changes than the manager.'

Paco Herrera: 'All of this happened in the first six or seven minutes of the break. There were a load of changes and a lots of commotion.'

Vladimir Smicer: 'It was pretty chaotic for a few moments in there. I was asking, "What do I have to do boss? Where will I be playing? Am I going to be playing wide? Will I be the right-back, or what?" Then we realised that the boss had written his second-half scheme with 12 players in the team.'

Rafa Benitez: 'Yeah, it was a total mess for a while. After I gave the speech, I first wrote on the board that Traore was coming off and Hamann on. First I took Didi up to the whiteboard so he understood what I wanted from him and then, after telling Didi to go and warm up with Pako outside, I explained the tactical changes to the rest of the side. During my explanations, and with Hamann outside, I was told that Finnan was injured. We were about to leave the dressing room and everybody else was getting up and walking around. "Come on boys!" someone screamed. Then I was reckoning on Cisse on the right side of midfield, which I had put on the board. But someone told me, "No, boss, if Hamann is coming on and Kewell has already been replaced then, bringing someone else on would leave you with no more substitutions." I agreed. I never make three replacements at half-time, it mortgages your future. So all of a sudden I had Cisse and Hamann written on the board, but I had taken only Finnan off. It's true, I had left 12 players in the team! So I took Cisse out of the line-up, but I also deleted Luis Garcia from the board because I wanted to move him to another position in the formation. All of a sudden I had 10 players in the team!

'With Finnan on the pitch the idea was to play 3-4-2-1 with Riise tucked in a bit deeper. But then, with the realisation that Finnan was not fit to stay on, the logical thing was to tell Traore that he wasn't being taken off. He had the boots off and was on his way to the shower. One of our major offensive problems in the first half had been the fact that we weren't threatening in and around their penalty box. So our idea was to change that pattern by using two players in the hole between midfield and Baros, who was in the centre-forward role on his own.

'The vital tasks for these two support strikers was to produce terrific movement, which helped us creatively but which also put massive pressure on them building the play out of defence through Pirlo in particular. If we prevented that then we guessed that it would slam the brakes on the damaging work which Gattuso and Seedorf, but most of all Kaka, were doing further up the pitch. The next point was that using three centre-halfs needed to make us much more secure at the back by staying tight on the runs of their twin strikers. Meanwhile Hamann also had the role of making Kaka's life much tougher for him. You can try anything in a match, tactically, so long as you've worked hard on such ideas in training and we had done.'

Paco Herrera: 'The tactical change was explained and we told the players not to storm out there and lose their heads in the first few moments. Then one of us pointed out that we needed some sort of extra rallying point, something to lift the spirits and help the team believe that winning was still possible. Not so much a chat, as Rafa had already said what he needed to say, but a pick-me-up. There were too many players who were as groggy as a boxer after being flattened by a sucker punch. The team desperately needed some kind of rallying call. Then it came. "Hey! Come on, remember the night we were losing 1-0 to Olympiakos at half-time and then we stormed out and scored three goals in the second half? So why not tonight - why not do it again?"As soon as that was said, one of the players picked up on it and started to urge everyone on in the right way, and little by little you could see and hear everyone's spirits rising.'

Rafa Benitez: 'Normally it's Xabi or Carra or Gerrard who'll be shouting "Come on boys" as an encouragement when it's needed. But in those first few minutes at half-time there wasn't really any of that from them. Only in the last couple of moments before going out did the animation and the noise hit a more normal level.'

Pako Ayestaran: 'When we came out, the fans applauded and we heard the sound of "You'll Never Walk Alone" echoing around. These fans have a deep belief - they have faith in the team and bring a tremendous boost of energy. They are more than just fans.'

David Moores (Liverpool Chairman): 'I was distraught at half-time and my main concern was for the fans. They had come all this way and I thought, "Christ, I hope we put on a better performance in the second half."'

John Aldridge (spent half-time in the press canteen): 'At that stage I wished I could have gone home. It was such an anticlimax, I was thinking, "I can't watch." I felt sick in my stomach - all that way just to be humiliated.'

Kenny Dalglish (at this stage, on his way home): 'We all thought that was that. No one thought we had a prayer. I was so glum I left the pub where I was watching the match in Formby to see the second half at home.'

Rick Parry: 'The fans were very low. We heard all the comments, and some fans left. But there came a moment when they started rallying and saying, "No, we can still do something. Let's score a goal, let's make it respectable, but let's go out with our tails up."'

Tony Barrett (Correspondent for the Liverpool Echo): 'I saw people crying at half-time. All of the guys from the same pub, the Holt in Kensington, left the stadium, they just couldn't stand it any more. Others, I'd say 40 more, went, but, after the start of the second half, tried to go back in. Amazingly they were allowed to enter the stadium.'

Sir Michael Bibby (a fan, at the Liverpool end): 'I decided to teach the words of "You'll Never Walk Alone" to a Turkish friend of mine who was seated with us. That is why I was singing it. We all thought it was a good joke when, before the start of the second half people chanted, "We're going to win 4-3, we're going to win 4-3."'

Xabi Alonso: 'From the dressing room we simply couldn't hear anything that was going on with the fans. Everyone has told me about how the support was getting behind us during the break but I have to say I didn't hear a thing.'

Rafa Benitez: 'I didn't hear "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the dressing room. On the way out to the pitch I did hear it, but I was totally within my own thoughts.'

Chris Bascombe (Liverpool Echo): 'When "You'll Never Walk Alone" began it appeared to all like an old friend in an unbearable scene. It was the closest you'd get to Liverpool's followers unifying in collective prayer. But really, although the sound had stunned the AC Milan fans, the line about "hope in your heart" sounded hollow. It was not a rip-roaring rally cry. It was the fans' way of telling their players we know we're going to get battered, but thanks for the trip anyway.'

Jose Manuel Ochotorena (Liverpool Goalkeeping Coach): 'On our way out to the pitch I heard one of their subs, I'm not certain who it was, saying, "Let's see if we can play a bit of football now and enjoy the final." I was walking out behind Gattuso and Nesta who were saying that the match was "already won" and that all they needed to do was knock the ball about and keep hold of possession.'

Gennaro Gattuso: 'When I came back on to the pitch, I felt the atmosphere had changed completely. Italian fans are so different to the English, they have a different mentality. And I made a gesture to my fans to wake them up - it was not a victory sign. They weren't singing!'

Chris Bascombe (Liverpool Echo): 'Then Steven Gerrard reappeared to a roar which would have made anyone arriving late believe it was still 0-0. Seconds later, as a means of clarification, the Kop-on-tour sang, "We're gonna win 4-3".'

Jose Manuel Ochotorena: 'On the way out to the bench Paco Herrera told me, "If we get one goal then we are right back in this."'

Adapted from A Season on the Brink - Rafael Benitez, Liverpool and the path to European Glory by Guillem Balague (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £16.99)

Viewpoint: Colin Powell still craven after all these years

Viewpoint: Colin Powell still craven after all these years
Norman Solomon

December 5, 2005

 --  Newspapers across the United States and beyond told readers on November 30 about sensational new statements by a former top assistant to Colin Powell when he was secretary of state.

After interviewing Lawrence Wilkerson, the Associated Press reported that he "said that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees after September 11 [2001] arose from a coterie of White House and Pentagon aides who argued that 'the president of the United States is all-powerful', and that the Geneva Conventions were irrelevant".

AP added: "Wilkerson blamed Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. Wilkerson said that Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because 'otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard'."

Such strong words are headline grabbers when they come from someone widely assumed to be speaking Powell's mind. And as a Powell surrogate, Wilkerson is certainly on a tear this week, speaking some truth about power. But there are a few big problems with his zeal to recast the public record:

1) Wilkerson should have spoken up years ago. 2) His current statements, for the most part, are foggy. 3) The criticisms seem to stem largely from tactical critiques and image concerns rather than moral objections. 4) Powell is still too much of a cagey opportunist to speak out himself.

Appearing on the BBC's "Today" program on Tuesday, Wilkerson said: "You begin to wonder was this intelligence spun? Was it politicized? Was it cherry-picked? Did, in fact, the American people get fooled? I am beginning to have my concerns."

So Wilkerson, who was Powell's chief of staff from 2002 till early this year, has started to "wonder" whether the intelligence was spun, politicized, cherry-picked. At the end of November 2005 he was "beginning" to have "concerns".

"Beginning to have my concerns" is a phrase that aptly describes the Colin Powell approach.

Overall, appearances remain key. And so, Wilkerson included this anecdote in his AP interview: "Powell raised frequent and loud objections, his former aide said, once yelling into a telephone at Rumsfeld: 'Donald, don't you understand what you are doing to our image?'"

Now there's a transcendent reason to begin to have concerns: Torturing prisoners is bad for "our image".

Rest assured that if the war had gone well by Washington's lights, we'd be hearing none of this from Powell's surrogate. The war has gone bad, from elite vantage points, not because of the official lies and the unrelenting carnage but because military victory has eluded the US government in Iraq. And with President Bush's poll numbers tanking, and Dick Cheney's even worse, it's time for some "moderate" sharks to carefully circle for some score-settling and preening.

In its account of Wilkerson's BBC appearance, the British Guardian newspaper reported on November 30: "Asked whether the vice president was guilty of a war-crime, Mr. Wilkerson replied: 'Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well.' In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word 'terror' to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners."

Strong stuff, especially since it's obvious that Wilkerson is channeling Powell with those statements. But Powell was a team player and a very effective frontman for the administration that was doing all that politicizing and cherry-picking - and then proceeding with the policies that Wilkerson now seeks to pin on Cheney as possible war crimes.

White House war makers deftly hyped Powell's "moderate" credibility while the Washington press corps lauded his supposed integrity. Powell was the crucial point man for giving "diplomatic" cover to the Iraq invasion fixation of Bush and Cheney. So, typically, Powell proclaimed three weeks into 2003: "If the United Nations is going to be relevant, it has to take a firm stand."

When Powell made his dramatic presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, he fudged, exaggerated and concocted, often presenting deceptions as certainties. Along the way, he played fast and loose with translations of phone intercepts to make them seem more incriminating.

And, as researchers at the media watch group FAIR (where I'm an associate) pointed out, "Powell relied heavily on the disclosure of Iraq's pre-war unconventional weapons programs by defector Hussein Kamel, without noting that Kamel had also said that all those weapons had been destroyed." But the secretary of state wowed US journalists.

Powell's televised UN speech exuded great confidence and authoritative judgment. But he owed much of his touted credibility to the fact that he had long functioned inside a media bubble shielding him from direct challenge. It might puzzle an American to read later, in a book compiled by the London-based Guardian, that Powell's much-ballyhooed speech went over like a lead balloon.

"The presentation was long on assertion and muffled taped phone calls, but short on killer facts," the book said. "It fell flat."

Fell flat? Well it did in Britain, where a portion of the mainstream press immediately set about engaging in vigorous journalism that ripped apart many of Powell's assertions within days. But not on the western side of the Atlantic, where Powell's star turn at the United Nations elicited an outpouring of media adulation. In the process of deference to Powell, many liberals were among the swooners.

In her Washington Post column the morning after Powell spoke, Mary McGrory proclaimed that "he persuaded me". She wrote: "The cumulative effect was stunning." And McGrory, a seasoned and dovish political observer, concluded: "I'm not ready for war yet. But Colin Powell has convinced me that it might be the only way to stop a fiend, and that if we do go, there is reason."

In the same edition, Post columnist Richard Cohen shared his insight that Powell was utterly convincing: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations - some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail - had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool - or possibly a Frenchman - could conclude otherwise."

Inches away, Post readers found Jim Hoagland's column with this lead: "Colin Powell did more than present the world with a convincing and detailed X-ray of Iraq's secret weapons and terrorism programs yesterday. He also exposed the enduring bad faith of several key members of the UN Security Council when it comes to Iraq and its 'web of lies', in Powell's phrase."

Hoagland's closing words sought to banish doubt: "To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you."

On the opposite page the morning after Powell's momentous UN speech, a Washington Post editorial was figuratively on the same page as the Post columnists. Under the headline "Irrefutable", the newspaper laid down its line for rationality: "After Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

Also smitten was the editorial board of the most influential US newspaper leaning against the push for war. Hours after Powell finished his UN snow job, The New York Times published an editorial with a mollified tone - declaring that he "presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions and has no intention of revealing or surrendering whatever unconventional weapons he may have."

By sending Powell to address the Security Council, the Times claimed, President Bush "showed a wise concern for international opinion". And the paper contended that "Mr. Powell's presentation was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein's regime."

Later in mid-September 2003, straining to justify Washington's refusal to let go of the occupation of Iraq, Colin Powell used the language of a venture capitalist: "Since the United States and its coalition partners have invested a great deal of political capital, as well as financial resources, as well as the lives of our young men and women - and we have a large force there now - we can't be expected to suddenly just step aside."

Now, after so much clear evidence has emerged to discredit the entire US war effort, Colin Powell still can't bring himself to stand up and account for his crucial role. Instead, he's leaving it to a former aide to pin blame on those who remain at the top of the Bush administration. But Powell was an integral part of the war propaganda machinery. And we can hardly expect the same media outlets that puffed him up at crucial times to now scrutinize their mutual history.

Norman Solomon's latest book is War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. His syndicated column focuses on media and politics. Acknowledgement to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One for the Older Footballers

One for the Older Footballers - It's Never Too Late If You Have Skills

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 15 (Reuters) - They said that he was finished, that he had overstayed his welcome and that he was blemishing his career.

At the age of 39, former PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, Barcelona and Brazil striker Romario has proved them all wrong.

In an age where football places an increasing emphasis on running and physical strength and where even strikers are expected to move back and mark, Romario has finished as top scorer in the Brazilian championship.

Moreover, Brazil's 1994 World Cup winner has done it the old-fashioned way by standing in the penalty area, waiting for the ball to come to him and using stealth and experience to outsmart markers little more than half his age.

"I want to thank the Vasco directors who believed in me and gave me all the freedom I needed to score my goals," Romario said after scoring two penalties in Vasco's last game of the season to finish with 22 goals.

"They can say what they want but goals scored from penalties also count."

"I also have to thank my team mates for their support."

Adding that he planned to continue for at least another year, Romario said: "I feel that I'm in good shape to continue. It's difficult to leave all this."

"I'm not one of those horses that sets off quickly and gets caught with a few furlongs to go. Once again, I've shown that I'm a thoroughbred.

"They said I had to end my career but I had more faith than them. I showed that I can still give a lot. It's a personal victory."


As far as international soccer is concerned, Romario disappeared off the radar back in 1998 when he was dropped from Brazil's World Cup squad on the eve of the competition because of a nagging muscular problem.

His last experience with a European club had been in 1997 when he had an unhappy spell with Valencia.

He has continued to torment defences in Brazil, however, playing first for Flamengo and then for Vasco da Gama, where he finished as top scorer in the 2001 Brazilian championship at the age of 35.

The following year, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari defied popular pressure by refusing to pick him for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Romario moved to Fluminense shortly afterwards but appeared to have missed his chance to stop while the going was still good.

In October last year, he was sacked by the club after an injury-plagued season which reached its low points when fans jeered him off the field.

Undeterred, he moved back to Vasco, the club where he began his career, at the start of this year but initially continued to make more headlines for his privileges than his football.

In February, he was allowed time off to play in the Beach Soccer World Cup. Then he was excused from playing in a important cup tie because it involved an 11-hour plane and bus journey.

Finally, he took 10 days off after falling out with former coach Dario Lourenco.

Vasco were struggling against relegation and, when he did play, Romario's static presence appeared to have become a burden to the team.

But when Renato Portaluppi became Vasco's third coach of the year in July, he announced, amid general incredulity, that his team would be "Romario, plus 10."


An even bigger surprise was that Portaluppi's gamble paid off.

Like Romario, Portaluppi's own playing career had been punctuated by breaches of discipline, a dislike of training and rows with his coaches.

He seemed to understand that Romario was a special player who needed to be pandered to.

Romario was allowed to follow his own fitness programme, even if it meant missing team practices, and the team was built to spoonfeed him.

The goals began to flow and helped Vasco to climb away from the danger zone as they eventually finished a respectable 12th in the 22-team table.

The 1970 World Cup forward Tostao, now a widely respected newspaper columnist, said that a combination of circumstances had led to Romario's revival.

"This is a consequence of his eternal talent, of the effort he made to play and the weakness of the rival defences," he wrote.

"Romario, who was the most genial centre-forward of all time, is still playing well in the Brazilian championship because he plays for the modest team of a big club which is fighting to avoid relegation and where the coach and the president do what he needs and desires."

"It's better for Vasco to have Romario with 40 years than a 20-year-old who does nothing apart from run a lot.

"Unfortunately, Romario is no longer in condition to shine in a big team which is challenging for titles."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

America Online (AOL)

Article printed from SiteProNews:
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AOL - The Greased Pig of Search is About to Get Caught
By Jim Hedger (c) 2005 , StepForth News Editor, StepForth Placement Inc.

The greased pig of the search world is about to get caught.
Apparently the pig is a prized ham after all.

For the past three months, AOL has been acting like the greased
pig of the search engine world. Each of the other major players
has been trying to capture a piece of AOL but according to the
breathless reporting in publications such as the Wall St.
Journal, Search Engine Watch, CNet News and WebProNews, AOL has
been playing each against the other. It is much easier to
understand the motivation of the four-legged greased pigs than
it is to figure out the game of negotiated brinksmanship AOL is
playing. In the traditional country fair version of the game,
the greased pigs do not wish to be caught. When such sport takes
place in a boardroom owned by the greased pig however, it is
somewhat reasonable for participants to assume said greased pig
actually wishes to be caught. In the case of AOL's game of
greased pig, appearances have often been deceiving and
experiences will change during actual game play. Nevertheless,
the greased pig is about to be caught and when it does, a series
of events will eventually affect nearly 80% of US Internet

Of all the major search entities, AOL has one of the longest,
most interesting and convoluted stories. It still has one of the
biggest membership bases of any entity on the Internet with an
estimated 97 million. It is owned and operated by the board of
the Time Warner publishing empire. AOL purchased Time Warner in
early 2000 in a legendary stock transfer that took place weeks
before the dot-com crash removed much of the value of those

The major search engines wanted AOL outright but eventually
found it wasn't for sale as an entity. In late October and early
November, reports surfaced
(,3604,1636281,00.html )
suggesting Yahoo, Microsoft and Google were each trying to buy
AOL away from Time Warner. Observers might have thought
themselves safe in assuming the Time Warner board might approve
the outright sale of the AOL arm, which has been a drag on
overall operations since the firms merged in 2000. In September
2003, the company officially known as AOL Time Warner moved to
distance itself from its underperforming partner by dropping the
name AOL from its corporate identity.

At the time of the transfer, AOL was the largest Internet
Service Provider in the United States but a series of mistakes,
combined with the sudden downturn in the Internet economy pushed
AOL to near obscurity in the eyes of Time Warner and most
long-term Internet users. Remember the days when AOL sent
hundreds of millions of unsolicited free AOL CDs to homes around
the world promising a month of FREE AOL access. Many, if not
most, of those CDs ended up as drink coasters, Christmas tree
ornaments, unpredictable Frisbees, or, home fashioned ninja
throwing stars.

Like many of the geniuses that coded before them, some of most
important contributions AOL's Netscape team has made to the
Internet can never be balanced in a profit and loss ledger.
Before it bought Time Warner, AOL purchased the beleaguered
Netscape web browser but ended up alienating loyal Netscape
users by redesigning the browser in its own image in the
disastrous Netscape 6.0 release in November 2000. While the 6.0
version was a resounding flop, it stands out as the first major
public open-source application and is considered the predecessor
of the massively popular Firefox (
browser. One of the least appreciated assets owned by AOL was
the group of open-source programmers who developed Netscape and
moved on to form the independent Mozilla Foundation

Again, like many of those that coded before them, the power of
AOL's reach was grievously underappreciated because the
conditions to exercise that power had not been realized. America
had not gone broadband as quickly as expected and the massive
migration towards digital convergence has until this year been
treated as a dot-bomb pipe dream by mainstream corporate
investors. Now that over 75% of US Internet users are accessing
via big-pipes, video and audio content (stuff folks will pay
for) is now easily served. In short, investors see a way to
easily and inexpensively get products to consumers. As anyone
with a sense of history will tell ya, those who invest in
transportation of goods or people tend to make a heck of a lot
of money.

Sensing the major shifts taking place in today's publishing
sector, billionaire corporate raider Carl Ichan who currently
controls 2.8% of Time Warner's shares has set his sights on Time
Warner chief Richard Parsons. He wants Parsons out and is
expected to be planning the break-up of the empire if he can
mount a successful hostile challenge against the Board of
Directors. The pending shareholders fight might be the biggest
reason Time Warner's board seems to have backed down from
selling AOL or even allowing another firm to purchase a stake in
it, even after months of negotiations with MSN, Google and
Yahoo. The Board was acting like a greased pig, not in reaction
to the competitive bids from the Big3 but in reaction to the
competitive challenge Ichan is mounting against Parsons. AOL is
simply worth too much in the near future to sell off or
compromise today, even if it would have provided a massive
return for investors.

Earlier this month, Ichan warned the Time Warner board he would
hold them personally responsible if AOL was sold at too low a
price. Shortly thereafter, AOL changed its tune and took itself
off the open market, later saying that it would not even sell a
stake in the company.

At the end of the day however, all greased pigs must be caught
and AOL, no matter how wily is no exception. The Wall Street
Journal reported today that AOL and Microsoft are about to sign
a deal that will remove Google from AOL's search page in
mid-2006 and replace it with MSN generated results and paid

AOL and Google have been partners in search since 2002 when
Google provided the vast majority of search results seen on
almost every search engine, including rival Yahoo. Under the
present arrangement, AOL retains approximately 80% of ad revenue
generated by AdWords advertising displayed across the AOL
network. That agreement, set to expire in mid-2006, was good for
about $300 million in revenues for AOL last year.

A deal between AOL and MSN will give the two firms access to
over 140 million subscribed members, making it the largest
online content and advertising alliance in the world. Yahoo has
approximately 122 million registered users per month and Google
has about 86 million. Though discussions about selling a stake
in AOL are no longer on the table, chairperson Richard Parsons
applied a bit more grease as he told a Tuesday news conference
that AOL remained in talks with "multiple parties".

That reminds me of something my grand-pappy used to say. "Never
fight with a pig Jim, never fight with a pig." To this day I
have no idea what he meant, but the expression is stuck in my
head. Perhaps he simply had the family trait of foresight as he
died years before the public even considered personal computers.
You see; AOL's Board of Directors might have actually initiated
the greased pig contest as a front in another fight they are
facing with Ichan while, at the same time, playing Google,
Microsoft and Yahoo off against each other in order to force a
stronger settlement from one or more of them. Pigs are said to
be one of the brightest four legged animals and, at the end of
the day, this one has behaved beyond expectations and provided a
captive audience with the greatest greased pig catching contest
of all time. Yee Haw.

Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing
expert based in Victoria BC. Jim writes and edits full-time for
StepForth and is also an editor for the Internet Search Engine
Database. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes
the opportunity to share his experience through interviews,
articles and speaking engagements. He can be reached at

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