Explaining Southern California's economy

Google goggles coming later this year

Google Stock Photo

Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011. AFP PHOTO/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO (Photo credit should read KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)

Eyeglasses. They're just so stupid, sitting there on your face, enabling you to do little more than see better and, in certain chunky black Buddy Holly-esque cases, branding you as a probable resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But Google plans to change all that, with "heads up display glasses," according to the New York Times' Nick Bilton:

The glasses will send data to the cloud and then use things like Google Latitude to share location, Google Goggles to search images and figure out what is being looked at, and Google Maps to show other things nearby, the Google employee said. “You will be able to check in to locations with your friends through the glasses,” they added.

Everyone I spoke with who was familiar with the project repeatedly said that Google was not thinking about potential business models with the new glasses. Instead, they said, Google sees the project as an experiment that anyone will be able to join. If consumers take to the glasses when they are released later this year, then Google will explore possible revenue streams.

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Could Apple actually pay shareholders?

Apple's New iPhone 4s Goes On Sale

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple Store customers look at the new Apple iPhone 4Gs on October 14, 2011 in San Francisco, United States. The new iPhone 4Gs features a faster dual-core A5 chip, an 8MP camera that shoots 1080p HD video, and a voice assistant program.

The bigger Apple gets, the more pressure it comes under to share some of the wealth. With a cash pile now approaching $100 billion, the idea of a one-time dividend is being floated. This is from Therese Poletti at MarketWatch:

“Instituting a regular dividend would be a signal of a new maturity in the way the company views itself,” [said management professor James] Post.... “That would be a much bigger statement of change for the company. I think there is probably a debate going on.” And the ghosts of CEOs past are clearly in the room.

Post said a special dividend could be an interim solution for the company. “If they want to they can always come back in a year or two or three, they can do it again, but they are not committing themselves to a regular dividend,” he said. “It would be seen as a pretty big departure from the Jobs era.” It’s a tactic used by Microsoft in 2004, when it announced a one-time dividend of $3 a share, to use return some cash to investors.

A one-time dividend is obviously not very popular among most investors.

“I think that Apple’s stock is and should be like Apple’s sales and products, insanely great,” said individual shareholder King Lear, who spoke up at the company’s annual meeting last year. “Defined quarterly dividends would increase the value of the stock in addition to its incredible capital growth.”

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Greek default averted: It's all a game of kick-the-can

Violence Erupts As Greece Decides On Euro Future

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

ATHENS, GREECE - FEBRUARY 12: People clash with police in the streets during a demonstration against the new austerity measures on February 12, 2012 in Athens, Greece. Greece's creditors have demanded further austerity measures before approving a new bailout from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund amid renewed concerns the country may default. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images)

Here's the quote of the past weekend (from Bloomberg), stemming from the latest Greek bailout deal:

The euro area has...“bought time” for countries such as Portugal to prove they are more creditworthy than Greece and to erect stronger defenses in the form of a larger bailout fund, said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING Groep in Brussels.

“The often-cited Greek can has again been kicked down the road,” he said. “The good thing is that the can is still on the road, but it requires a huge amount of stamina and patience to keep it there.”

Translation: We're going to playing kick-the-can for...another eight years at least? Because it's hard to see Greek reducing its debt from the current 160 percent of GDP to 120 percent until then. The obvious question is, "Just how much road have we got it?" And, "Will that can hold up to another decade of kicking?"

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Lucky or unlucky Dow 13,000?

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Slightly Down

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. stock markets have been rallying since October. Time to get worried?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has been bumping along at or just below 13,000 for a few trading days now. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the Dow is up 22 percent since October, an impressive rally given that the economic news, while improving, isn't that good.

So what does it all mean? Well, you could argue for extreme caution at this point. Because the risk-craving money has probably already come into the markets, earning its double-digit returns, it's going to start looking for a way out. Enter the "dumb money," otherwise known as the retail investor. Some analysts think the dumb money has already showed up and is keeping the market elevated.

Regardless, the tail end of a rally can be hard on unseasoned investors. They may panic if they bought high and suddenly see their holdings turn lower as the pros rush back to cash, preparing for the next sustained rally. 

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Why do some critics despise 'Downton Abbey?'

Photograph Nick Briggs. +44(0)20.

The Season 2 finale of Downton Abbey aired on PBS Masterpiece Classics this Sunday, Feb. 19.

At my house, we just wrapped up Season 2 of the breakout British T.V. hit, "Downton Abbey." Matthew Crawley, heir to the estate and future Earl of Grantham, finally proposed (again) to the luminous Lady Crawley, as 1919 turned into 1920 and gigantic glowing snowflakes blanketed the English countryside. "Downton," which mashes up "Upstairs, Downstairs" with "Atonement" and "Brideshead Revisited," is a finest piece of televise soap you can currently consume in the West. It's addictive, in the way that that these heavy breathing, highly acted British costume dramas are. Americans can't get enough of it.

Not so the English intelligentsia. First Simon Schama, an influential Columbia University historian who once hosted an entire series about the British, laid into "Downton" at the Daily Beast. For Schama, it's personal:

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