Sunday, February 12, 2017

Google Has a Sense of Humor

Google has a sense of humor. When Alphabet announced that it would buy back part of its own shares, it looked like a standard announcement.

Companies regularly buy back their own stock when they have a lot of money in their coffers or when they have the feeling that their stock in undervalued. 

But what is hilarious in this case is the price of the buy back: USD 7,019,340,976.83.

This number is the sum of 26 (the number of letters in the current alphabet) to the power of the mathematical constant e times one million. It would have been easy (and so boring!) to announce a price of USD 7b, so why not throw in another USD 19m plus to have some fun? Especially when money is not an object!

It is not the first time that Google has some nerdy fun, just look at the name Google itself. It’s a play on the words “googol” which stands for the number 1 with one hundred zeros. It is not the first time that Alphabet had this kind of fun. In 2015, it bought back shares in the amount of USD 5,099,019,513.59. That number is the square root of 26 times one million.

When Google went public, the intention was to raise USD 2,718,281,828 which is 1 billion times the mathematical constant e. Google obviously has a thing for this constant, it also used it when is made its offer of USD 3.14b for Nortel Networks. Unsuccessfully so, the Nortel’s patent portfolio was sold for USD 4.5m.

Stay tuned for the next nerdy announcement!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The War of the Book Fairs

Promoting your book is already difficult, and the War of the Book Fairs in Italy does not help. If we take a closer look, we notice that Italians just love to bicker about soccer, women, politics and any other controversial subject. The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe already noticed during his Italian travels that “it is incomprehensible how anyone gets along with another person, since quarreling seems to be common denominator among all social classes.

In recent year, the all-powerful Milanese publishers want to make money by creating their own book fair. It would compete with the Salone del Libro in Turin, which after the Frankfurter Buchmesse (The book fair in Frankfurt), it is one of the most prominent book fairs in Europe.

However, during the last few year, Milanese publishers wanted to leverage their success with their own book fair. This in turn triggered the War of the Book Fair Giants. The Italian Minister of Culture acted as the peace maker. He suggested to have the book fair at two cities simultaneously. But cooperation and compromise are not the strong points of Italians, as shown in the 63 governments elected in 69 years…Milan stuck to its guns and the mayor Turin pointed out that Milan organizes the number 1 book fair. The Minister of Culture commented that this is the way wars start, by this kind of rigid attitudes.

So what does this mean in the long run? As a book lover, writer or publisher, visit any well-organized book fair you can. This could mean that you have to buy a ticket to the book fair in Frankfurt, followed by one to Milan as well as Turin. All in all, not too shaby methink.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lucifer - Lost and Created in Translation

The devil might be in the details, but in case of Lucifer it’s in the translation. Lucifer is supposed to be mentioned in Isaiah 14:12, but good luck trying to find it in the original Hebrew text. As any translator (and historian) can tell you - it is impossible that the Latin word Lucifer found its way into a Hebrew manuscript, way before there even was Latin as a language.

The original Hebrew text refers to a fallen Babylonian king and not to any devil, fallen angel or any other celestial being. Au contraire, it tells the story of a king referred to as Helal, son of Shahar, which can best be translated as "Day star, son of the Dawn." It refers to his glittering robes and court, uncannily similar to the image (or brand as we call it today) of the French King Louis XIV aka “The Sun King"). Hence, the biblical text does not contain any reference to Lucifer, aka the fallen angel, aka Satan, aka the devil, aka the Prince of Darkness.

So how did Lucifer end up in Chapter 14 of the King James Bible which is the English translation of the Bible? Simple - the King James I translation did not translate the original Hebrew texts. It depended on St. Jerome (who lived in the fourth century of the CE) as a source. He mistranslated the Hebraic metaphor, "Day star, son of the Dawn," as "Lucifer," which became mainstream. Hence the Lucifer myth was created. The fictional Lucifer is an angel who became arrogant, challenged the Almighty, and thus was cast out of heaven to torture souls in hell.

The name Lucifer is derived from the Latin lucem ferre, bringer, or bearer, of light. (The Dutch still refer to matches as “lucifers”). In Roman mythology, Lucifer (in Greek Phospheros) is the ‘Bearer of Light’ and God of the Evening Star and Morning Star (Venus).

 Needless to say, Lucifer became excellent fodder for theologians, fiction writers, poets, comics and even gave birth to a highly amusing FOX TV series. All in all, it shows that you can have fun with the devil aka Lucifer!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Rich Are At It Again; Cheating on Their Taxes – The Bar Refaeli Story

There is a long list of celebrities who cheated on their taxes. Considering their net income, it’s quite amusing that they avoid paying taxes since they are not exactly poverty-stricken.

The latest culprit is Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. The woman dodged serving in the army by entering into a fake marriage, so it should not come as a big surprise that she stiffed her government who uses the funds to protect its citizens with e.g., iron dome.

Bar Refaeli tried to weasel out of the allegations by claiming that she lived abroad. Well, that did not exactly fly – the Israel Tax Authority had the woman arrested for allegedly evading millions of dollars in taxes. She was grilled for 12 hours.

As a supermodel, she received a lot of freebies for which she should have paid income tax on. She didn’t, just enjoying her perks such as luxury apartments and cars without any accountability. The woman also stayed in luxury apartments registered under her mother and brother’s names, and also used Range Rover and Lexus cars free of charge. The Israel Tax Authority notices that she enjoyed unreported income amounted to “dozens of millions of shekels.”

The Refaeli women defended themselves, claiming that the model lived outside of Israel. Needless to say, that did not fly. The Israel Tax Authorities were not amused, showing thatDiCaprio’s ex and her Mummy enjoyed “celebrity discounts” such as free interior decorating, which they never reported.

The homes of both Refaeli women were raided this week. On Thursday, they were arrested and released on bail. They were forced to fork over their passports and can’t leave Israel without permission for 180 days. Quel horreur!

Moral of the story – don’t cheat on your taxes! It’s just not worthwhile. Tax authorities all over the world have long memories, unlimited resources, and the tenacity to hunt you down. Do yourself a favor, just pay your dues – especially if you are an egomaniac celebrity! (Or any member of their money-hungry posse).

(Image courtesy of K Bar from TA, IL at Flickr)