I am lucky that my only contact with Robert Allen Stanford was metallic

financial-scam1-366x244w┬áNow that the financial health of the world has gone down the toilet, all kinds of cockroaches and rats are being exposed to the sun. This is not a nice picture but at least the whole world can take notice about a couple of sayings: “There is no free lunch,” and “if it sounds too good then it is too good.”I am a small potato in this huge world of financial IOUs. So, I never qualified to be robbed by Bernie Madoff.

I am also not someone from a Latin American country who is trying to safeguard his or her assets against unstable governments. I do feel sorry, however, for all those Latin Americans who thought that their investments in certificates of deposits with Bernie redux’s (aka disgraced Robert Allen Stanford) bank were secure. Like Mr. Madoff, Mr. Stanford promised steady returns. This time in the form of higher interest paying CDs issued by his bank domiciled in the island of Antigua.

So, how can we, the small potatoes of the world, know if we are scammed? Like what Ronald Regan said eons ago, trust but verify. As blogger Alex Dalmady said in his article that uncovered Mr. Stanford’s scam, it is in front of our eyes if we open them. Mr. Dalmady provided some guidelines to check if an investment is a scam:

1. It is too good to be true
2. It can do what no one else can
3. There are few (or only one) persons overseeing everything
4. Few incentives for whistle blowers

So, why did I say that my only contact with Mr. Stanford was metallic? I flew Caribbean Sun once. It is now a defunct airline, but Mr. Stanford used to own.


Thousand Gold Little Miss

Thousand gold little miss is my literal translation from a Chinese phrase. It basically means stuck up, spoiled single woman. Mainly those girls who have been groomed by their parents to be married to rich guys and have babies. This seems to be somewhat of a universal truth in paternal societies. The end result may be a bored or boring lady in the later years of her life, who still believe she is the little Miss gold and can’t understand why the limousine is not waiting for her. Well, in this case, why the plane is not waiting for her:

Another gadget to play with – I think this is a winner, the Roku box

netflix_roku_box-custom1My partner has a movie subscription with Netflix. It is the basic one in which he can have endless DVDs so long as he plays and returns them one at a time. So, in between watching and sending back and forth through the mail, I think he watches about 8 movies a month. Now, as some of my dear readers know, Netflix also has an online play now option. It is included with the DVD subscription and you can play as many movies as you want. That is, so long as you are confined to be in front of your computer, and you are happy with the selection of available movies (well, mostly older ones). My partner is someone whose movie viewing habits are difficult to change. I doubt he will ever watch a video clip in front of a computer screen.

This week, I decided to embark on a new experiment. I picked up a story in the New York Times about changing viewing habits and that Netflix has a box that streams movies directly to the TV. The Roku box. To start with, I believe the marketers got the entry price right – $100. Second, who does not want free movies? All the movies that Netflix can provide online can be played through the Roku box…and at 720p. So, with visions about cutting part of my cable programming service, I decided to buy the Roku box.

So far it has been a great experience. Having been used to sporadic YouTube downloads in my computer; I wondered how the Roku box would behave given that the main TV was downstairs and away from the WIFI router. No worries here. But for the initial 4 to 5 seconds download delay, the movies played perfectly. The amazing thing is that I could now treat the selected movies as if I was watching TV, flipping among them. The software is intelligent enough to remember where I stopped on each of them and continue from there. In a sense, it is like a multiple disks DVD player. The Apple TV box should have been like this to start with. But Apple missed an opportunity. Its box is double the price and there is no much free content, expect for the video podcasts (hint to Apple, the idea of free video podcasts of TV programs is a winner).

I am sure that the Roku will become an extremely successful tool to deliver video content. The company is now in the process of obtaining other content providers. So long as these new providers keep the price low, I predict is a win-win situation. I hope that the cable companies take notice. They have bee raising their monthly subscription fees, behaving like classic monopolies. I wish they will view this new competition as a warning about pricing themselves out of the market. But I fear, as my friend said, they will just simply increase the fee for providing Internet connection.