Saturday Dec 23, 2006

Multi-Lot Auction Design

Here is another academic presentation from my Haas years. It describes "Multi-Lot Auction Design: Applied to 3G Spectrum Auctions." I hope you can follow it. Like the previous paper I just posted, it needs some editing and work to bring it up to par. It is definitely worth a separate paper of its own if only time would allow.

Put together originally as a presentation for a game theory seminar, it distinguishes auctions involving multiple lots (items) of potentially complementary value from auctions involving identical lots (items). An example would be if you would participate in an auction involving pieces of adjacent properties of various sizes as opposed to auctions involving instances of the same object. Another example of the first kind, discussed in this paper, are spectrum auctions because these auctions are national and span multiple, but separate, municipalities and regions with value complementarities having to do with costs of maintaining a mobile network on a particular topography of auction licenses.

A Transaction Cost Economics View of the Bullwhip Effect

I'm posting another one of my papers form the Haas years: "A Transaction Cost Economics View of the Bullwhip Effect." It was written in May of 2004. It does need another good round of editting. So, I might edit and repost it at a later time.

In short, this paper gives a TCE assessment of the bullwhip effect observed in supply chain systems. It was written as part of an independent study with professor Oliver Williamson, who was kind enough to review the work and provide some very valuable suggestions. It was an honor to learn a few things about TCE from him, and of courses, errors in this paper, including the typos and techincal ones, are all of my own.

Thursday Dec 21, 2006

A Painting Biennial in Tehran


While looking for a photo of yalda celebrations this year, I ran into this interesting photo from the scene of The Fourth International Painting Biennial of The Islamic World in Tehran, Iran.

Click on it and you'll see a larger image at Flickr.

I believe the biennial started in the last week of November, and it looks like it ended today, December, 21, 2006.

Here are some other pictures I found.

It would be good to see more photographs of this exhibition. (As another example, check out this work.) There does not seem to be a website for the biennial or one that actually displays all the paintings.

I believe my friend, and ex-Berkeley-ite, Bobak Etminani, also has several paintings on display in the biennial.

Statistics on Open Source Projects

Now, we have places to go to for open source project statistics.

For example, see the Ohloh statistics for Apache / Derby.

Yalda--The Winter Solstice

It is winter solstice and the night of yalda.

Oldest Golf Course in Germany

During a recent trip to Europe, I had a chance to try my luck at the Wiesbadener Gold-Club e.V., Germany's oldest golf course near the spa town of Wiesbaden. The staff were congenial. The professional managing the store let me use some old clubs, and the bag had some old balls in it. I bought some long T-s. Of course, I have to thank my brother who dutifully drove me there just 3 hours before my flight out of Frankfurt, walked the course with me, helping me with the clubs, and then drove me to the airport even though he had little interest in the game. Without him, I wouldn't have been able to taste the course, which is quite large by comparison to the local courses here in Cupertino. The course has 9 holes with a total distance of 2586 meters. I'm a real beginning so I won't even divulge my score.


Roberto Chinnici tagged me with "the five things you don't know about me meme" last night and now it is time for me to tag five bloggers of my own.

First, I should say that I made an attempt to find my tag ancestors.

Going six generations back from me, we get to Tim Bray. At 14th generation back, written only four days ago, we have the Green LA Girl, a champion consumer. At 16th generation, going back 6 days ago, we have someone getting tagged twice.

You can pursue this generational research on your own.

Now, here are five things about me you may not know:

1)    My first and second languages are Persian and Azeri dialect of Turkish.

English is only my third (and by extension, not my best) language. I still remember very clearly a time in my life when I knew or spoke no or very little English. My fourth language is Spanish and my fifth is German but of these two, I can only read and listen now. I speak them rather badly and only when I have absolutely no choice, e.g. when I have to talk to my four-year-old niece in Germany. I can also read and have a good understanding of Quranic Arabic although one can always make further improvements.

2)    I spent about 4 months in London when I was 14. I was registered in an English class near Tottenham Court Road station.

3)    My father was a founding partner in the largest advertising company active in Iran in the early 1960s and 1970s.

He helped found the company right before I was born. I left Iran for America when I had just turned 17 weeks after I had witnessed the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the installation of a provisional government. My father's advertising company was disbanded due to business losses after the revolution.

4)    I spent one year as a foreign scholar in the Heilongjiang province of China working for the Daqing Petroleum Institute in the town of Anda, very near the industrial city of Daqing. The closest major urban area was Harbin.

This was a wonderful year, and my wife and I made many good friends. During the winter months (-35 degrees), we ice-skated, visited friends and ate many types of delicious hot meals, and I had a chance to read Willard Quine's Mathematical Logic, Wallace Matson's History of Philosophy and Barbara Partee, Alice ter Meulen and Robert Wall's Mathematical Linguistics, among oher books. When we returned I was lucky to study classical Chinese philosophy at Berkeley with professor Kwong-loi Shun, who has since left Berkeley.

5)   I spent 17 years at various graduate schools obtaining advanced degrees in everything from engineering, to journalism, to management.

According to our common standards of the day, this seems like a waste of time, and perhaps, it was but so be it. Time past cannot be regained. That is the special thing about time, and there lies the asymmetry that it enjoys with respect to space. Hence, the focus of much of technology to make us mobile in space and the lack of attention to preservation, through time, of what matters.

In any case, during six of these years I had non-academic jobs at various corporations (building early web applications with DB connectivity, desiging satellite communications programming environments, prototyping platforms for submission and analysis of computational simulations for aircrafts, working as a lead on DARPA research projects, and then joining Java Software at Sun). The toughest technical topic at graduate school must have been Cohen's Forcing Theorem. Synhetic Organic Chemistry was probably the easiest (and funnest) topic in all the school work I ever did. It felt like playing chess.

Now, it is my turn to tag others.

I hereby tag Richard Veryard, Francois Orsini, Robin Wilton (who generously accepted a second tagging), Hinkmond Wong, Mohamed AbdelAziz, Rich Sharples, Bernt Johnsen and Richard Friedman.

Wednesday Dec 20, 2006

Torrents to Distribute Video Content


Legal writers on the Internet have viewed it as a giant copying and distribution machine.

They are not far off the mark, and from this position, they have argued that the Internet should be let loose as such a machine with only minimal limitations, and that the legislature need to reconsider and rewrite copyright laws to bring them back to their original intent.

Let the machine do what it does best and figure out how to use it to benefit society at large, they have argued.

Roberto Chinnici and Michael Calore write about a major use of BitTorrent protocol for (copying and) distribution of video content from a major news media outlet, the BBC. 

This is a grand idea and a great use of the machine.

The only potential downside I could see is that BitTorrent works best when a piece is popular. For it to work for programming that does not always suit the popular taste of the masses, a major news outlet must also use enough torrent seeds to ensure these programs remain available for distribution. This way the less popular programming can still have the minimal torrent seeding necessary for efficient distribution while the more popular programming gets the benefit of additional distribution through the collaborative distribution BitTorrent makes possible as a piece becomes increasingly popular. In other words, popularity should (and can, thanks to BitTorrent) pay for itself.

One day, the designer of BitTorrent will be considered a great visionary who changed the face of the Internet. He made a great leap to make the copying and distribution machine more efficient and more fair.


Innovation on the Desktop

Bernard Traversat tells us about a new release of the Looking Glass Project.

Looking Glass is a 3D GUI desktop environment that provides robustness and stability for most of the 3D window effects. The 1.0 release gives the user better performance, support for JDK 1.6 and Java 3D 1.5, ease of installation with the mega bundle distributions for Solaris X86, Linux and wWindow. Bernard says that his team contributed lot of the X extensions to They also now have a Netbeans module for Looking Glass.

Innovations on the desktop do not come often and this one is worth a close, serious look. 

Tuesday Dec 19, 2006

Disputing the Origin of Santa Claus

Wiesbaden, Weihnachts Markt

A friend just pointed me to this column by Lester Brown disputing the origins of Santa Claus.

Lester Brown directs the Earth Policy Institute.

Monday Dec 18, 2006

Securing Property Rights

In cultured societies1, the state secures personal property against wanton takeover. Such protection encourages personal investment in productive social activity.

In a sense, private property becomes, and indeed is, sacred.

Nowhere is this more clear than the severe, albeit varying punishment vetted against thieves in various cultures and societies throughout history.

For example, consider the law in the U.S. that called for the execution of a man who stole the horse of another. Presumably, stealing a horse could be tantamount to stealing another's livelihood if not his or her life. As another example, if some score of  conditions hold, a thief of a personal property might lose a limb--starting with a piece of a finger--according to the sharia law. One of those score of hard-to-meet conditions that must exist for this particular law to apply involves a lack of a survival need to steal. So, the punishment may apply to a Wall Street magnet who has provenly and intentionally stolen from an old lady's pension or some orphans' trust, wrecking their lives as a consequence, but will not apply to a hungry beggar who takes an apple. 

Furthermore, and beyond the proofs in stipulated punishments, we have the proof in taboos against taking what belongs to others. These taboos run deep. For example, consider the emphasis, in both Jewish and Islamic law, regarding payment of debt as a religious obligation. Most reasonable people experience the relevant acculturation and live by these taboos and commendations.

Without the protection of private property, no one can be expected to give of his own or contribute anything for she or he will receive nothing of worth in return. There would be no incentive to contribute anything of worth without the protection of private property and rights in what is of worth. The history of the artificial beliefs in the sanctity of communal property extending to all things worth owning makes it quite clear that when incentives of private ownership disappear, people stop contributing willingly.

However, all protection of private and personal "property" has come at a price. States levy taxes on assets presumably to compensate themselves for cost of securing the conditions for ownership of such assets. The owners pay taxes and return something to the society that harbored their ownership rights. There are similar limits in other cases.

While IP and copyrights have been treated by some as private property, the protections granted to them had a different purpose. It was not an eternal protection but simply a safeguard for a limited time in order to grant the creative forces some security so that they may achieve and earn a return on the novelty they had created. Indefinite or long-term protection would create other problems such as slow propagation of novel ideas and innovations, not to mention the cost of enforcing such "rights." However, there were limits imposed on the duration of such protection in order to return the ideas to the mix of the community that had helped foster them. 

Lawrence Lessig has written enough about this topic, and today, in The Wall Street Journal, we read how sums are invested for the very protection of copyrights. ("Copyright Tool Will Scan Web for Violations," WSJ, December 18, 2006, Page B1.)

When a society pays more for securing what only needs limited protection, it increases its cumulative transaction costs at a time when better, lower-cost, alternatives exist for safeguarding what needs protecting. (This forumla also holds with aggressive wars as a means to provide "security" or with dubious prisons and gulags as a means to provide "justice." These techniques remind us of the analogy of a hammer used to kill a fly. Indeed, they are far worse.)

To the extent creative commons get a chance to grow beyond a certain threshold, we are in a position to see a more free culture. Cultural production means creating new cultural products against and upon what history has handed to us. To the extent that history can be frozen in a particular era by some few owners of its cultural products, we stand to suffer because we lose our flexibility as a cultured community to respond to the changes that go on around us.


1. The phrase "cultured societies" reads like an oxymoron. No society can exist in the long run without a culture to sustain it. Perhaps, I should have said in "Sustainable societies". Then again, we aree dealing with a bit of a tautology here. Without culture a society cannot be sustained, and no society is sustainable without culture.

Watch That Video!

I still do not have cable at my home and while I may be willing to tolerate some advertising or exchange some micropayments for some particular programming, I do not have an urge to consume all the programming that comes with various types of cable subscription. I simply do not have time to digest (or should I say "to be digested by") that amount of programming.

I should confess that I would rather read a book than watch a video whether on the web, on my home entertainment center or through cable or satellite. However, given that large numbers of consumers now have multiple computers and boradband access,  most can easily search, select and watch videos on the web.

For example, my own children have found videos on the web quite entertaining. The content they are interested in may vary from sports events and footwear advertisements to movie trailers to home-made comedies about school and family, not to mention music videos from the 1970s to the present. The home-made comedies (often made by the generation in whose life web has always been present) have become an immediate hit with the kids of the same age.

Video on the web offers fast distribution, unique programming and self-selection through search. Search-based self-selection by consumers must be most intriguing for advertisers. (In the meantime, Wired's Robert Lemos tries it all for himself.)

Thursday Dec 14, 2006

Disruptive with TV

Roberto Chinnici puts some probing questions to non-mainstream English language TV channels. His solution to their problems to break into the U.S. market: Use the web to your advantage to be disruptive with conventional TV programming.

To address the complaint regarding economic cost of bandwidth, finding a way to include decent advertising may prove sufficient. Furthermore, there can be a web-based subscription model that collects small subscription fees (or micropayments) for access to programming. This will work because bandwidth will still be able to serve all users particularly if programming does not emphasize real, real-time news and breaks content into pieces available separately.

Tuesday Dec 12, 2006

Marsh's Harsh Review

Rob Marsh writes a harsh review of Paul Arden's Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite. I did read the book last week and found it had some redeeming qualities. Marsh may be expecting too much, and Arden may be delivering on something other than what Marsh seems to be expecting.

Monday Dec 11, 2006

Not Just About Diamonds

JavaPolis 2006 proves that Antwerp is not just about the diamond, the ruby, other jewels or gems. It is also about Java and the Java Community. As a starter, you may want to check out Francois Orsini's Hands-on JavaDB (Apache Derby) Lab.

For more, including on the recent, generally-available release of JDK 6, see here

Change Agent

Leafing through Businessweek this morning, I noticed Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystem's CEO and blogger-in-chief, has been nominated as one of the best business leaders of 2006.

Thursday Dec 07, 2006

Carrousel, Weihnachtsmarkt, Wiesbaden

Only a couple of hours earlier, I had taken my niece Sarah for a ride on this carrousel. "Zweimal," she had requested.

For Kids

The Unreasonable Man

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw

Power Javascripting

jMaki means business with power Javascripting and more, including Phobos.

If you know your stuff, you'll check them out! 

Net Neutrality

Josh Silver who regularly posts on Net Neutrality debate, reviews Bill Moyer's PBS program on the same.



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