Celebrating 10 Years of the Mac BU at Microsoft… in Stickies!

Sorry, one last post for the night.   This was too cool to pass up.

The Macintosh BU at Microsoft, which was formed after the 1997 Apple/Microsoft alliance, just celebrated their 10th anniversary.  Apparently, what greeted them in the morning was gorgeous pixel art:

Of course, it turned out to not be pixel art per-se, but actually 1336 carefully pasted sticky notes on the windows.

I have to hand it to Microsoft, that’s 100% pure engineering culture right there.  Glorious.  I tip my hat to the team.

The full article about how they designed the sticky note art in Excel and then finished their work is here, on the Mac Mojo blog.

New XShares ETF for Carbon Emission Credits, and new Index from UBS

The magic of the modern capital markets. You can invest in anything.

First, you need to turn something into a tradeable security. With derivatives, you can do this with almost anything. London has done it with the weather. The Kyoto Protocol has done it with Carbon Dioxide emissions. Kyoto introduced a “cap and trade” approach to regulating carbon dioxide, similar to the program put in place by the United States in the 1990s to control sulfer dioxide and acid rain. In a cap and trade system, countries limit the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions on a per country basis, and then issue those rights to their companies. Companies can then trade those rights with each other, and even potentially earn “new rights” by putting in place technology and programs to cut existing carbon dioxide emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol currently covers 160 countries, representing approximately 55% of all carbon dioxide emissions globally. The United States, China & India are the most notable signatories missing from the current pact.

Emissions trading has become a big market, and with global warming a hot topic again (sorry, I couldn’t resist), a lot of people have been looking at the carbon dioxide credits as more than just environmental regulation, but as an investment opportunity.

After all, it stands to reason that the right to release a ton of carbon dioxide into the air is not going to get cheaper going forward. And of course, if you buy that right, then some other company can’t, which means you potentially have taken that right off the market… until you sell it.

Now, what most people don’t know is that there is also a voluntary carbon dioxide emissions market here in the US, the Chicago Climate Exchange. There is also now a firm, called XShares, that is investigating creating an ETF based on the exchange.

In other news, UBS has created a new Emissions Index, based on the two European exchanges, which trade about 46% of all the global emissions rights today. There is no ETF for this index, yet, but where there is an index, there is usually an ETF to follow.

I’m going to file this away in my “watch” folder for the time being. Carbon emissions might be a very interesting commodity, since there will be strong secular pressure to limit the rights to emit greenhouse gasses in the future. Also, it stands to reason that lower emission caps in the future will mean increased costs for corporations, which means it might be an interesting diversification play versus the corporate stock & bond markets.

Personal Finance Education Series: Introduction

As this blog continues to grow, I try to be very open to advice and suggestions from people who have become regular readers. Today, I got some advice from a friend who, while she hasn’t come clean with me on where her blog is located on the web, has been reading mine regularly.

She told me today that she liked the new aggregated page I made of all my Personal Finance posts to date, now featured in the header of the blog. However, she had a fundamental question about where I get all my information about personal finance, how I learned about these different ideas, and how a person with limited time could learn more.

She suggested I put together a series of posts for people who are interested in personal finance and investing, but aren’t sure where to start.

So, this post is going to be an introduction to a multi-part series on personal finance and investing, based on my own history on the topic. I’ll try to produce posts in the series that cover recommendations on magazines, websites, and books, as well as on basic topics like saving, investing, asset allocation, investment clubs, brokerages, retirement accounts, real estate, derivatives, commodities, and funds. Not necessarily in that order, of course.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in all of these areas, but if through a series of posts I can help people get started on their own personal finance education, I’ll feel like I’ve done a truly good thing with this blog.

As a personal note, I was not one of those people that had an early exposure to personal finance and investing. Although I’d like to think that I learned good personal finance values from my parents and grandparents, when it comes to investing, I didn’t know much about anything other than bank certificates of deposit until college.

Since then, I’ve been mostly self-taught, although now I have had the benefit of coursework at institutions like Stanford and Harvard, direct experience in the venture capital industry, and about fifteen years now of growth and learning.

We’ll see how it goes, and of course, I’m willing to take requests if there are topics people would like to see added to this series. I will try to do at least a few posts a week in the series, and in the end, I’ll group them together on the Personal Finance page for easy reference, as well as link them back here for navigation.

So, a special thank you to Rebecca Nathenson for the great suggestion.

Articles (complete index here):