Bank of America to Acquire Countrywide for $4 Billion
Let's take a walk down memory lane and read the original 2008 news story of the acquisition of Countrywide Financial by Bank of America. Hundreds of subsequent articles would describe the acquisition as "the worst deal of all time", but it's still informative to read the tone of the initial announcement. One important lesson is that plenty of things in life have negative value. So despite the fact that Countrywide had already fallen 85% and could be bought for $4 billion, it was not a bargain. It's now completely clear that it was worth substantially less than zero, as the tab for Countrywide losses and lawsuits is now approaching $50 billion! A second lesson is that years of hard work can be ruined by one bad decision. I don't think it's widely appreciated that Bank of America was actually one of the best positioned banks coming into the mortgage crisis, having jettisoned their subprime business long before the day of reckoning. Had they not bought Countrywide (and Merrill Lynch), they would have sailed through the storm relatively unharmed. Instead, it's been a very long road to recovery and the journey is still not finished.
Bears on Stairs
This is a very cool video that combines traditional stop motion animation with 3D printing.
Microsoft Wants You to Educate Its Virtual Assistant
When LinkedIn first started, I remember thinking it was such a clever business model. They got all the employees of the world to voluntarily enter their information and build the LinkedIn database for free, which the company then monetized by selling to employers. Well, Microsoft may finally have topped that with its new virtual assistant, Cortana. Using artificial intelligence techniques, the program will get much better as it is used. In other words, Microsoft will derive significant economic value from the millions of users that will train it for free. Sounds like a profitable business model to me.
The Beauty of Japan's Artistic Manhole Covers
Who knew that manhole covers could be so artistic? I guess if you're going to make something durable that lots of people will see every day, why not make it beautiful? So apparently nearly all of the municipalities in Japan now have their very own specially designed manhole covers. The article shows a number of pictures of these covers. Some are really quite interesting to look at.
Reading the Minds of the "Dead"
I was profoundly moved by this article. I realize there are moral and ethical concerns with this entire subject, yet I choose to focus on the amazing insight of one researcher and how he was able to create a yes/no communication system for people who are fully conscious but have no motor control or other possible means of communication. I don't want to spoil the story, so you'll have to read it for yourself if you have further interest.