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The Roundup April 24

I said spend the $5 million on Norwegian Quantum Mechanics classes and I meant it.

Financially strapped colleges are angering their benefactors by selling school radio stations, auctioning Georgia O’Keeffe paintings and dipping into endowments for purposes their donors may not have intended. . . .

As schools struggle more than they have in decades to fund their core operations, many are looking to a rich pool of so-called restricted gifts — held in endowments whose donors often provide firm instructions on how their money should be spent.

(“New Unrest on Campus as Donors Rebel ,” Wall Street Journal, April 23) If you’re like me, you probably receive two or three appeals for money from whatever colleges or universities you attended. I’ve actually been on the other side, and here’s what I have to say. Colleges and universities, like the society they exist in, are imperfect and ever evolving. Because they are varied in their mission, chances are that, if you donate money, some of the money will be used for something you don’t like. You donate because you’re committed to the cause of higher education as embodied by the institution you’re donating to. Restricted donations — those donations that specify tha the money can only be used in a certain department, to teach a certain political view, or any other restriction — are simply ego trips by monomaniacs with too much money and too little common sense. If you’ve got some special ego-project you want to work on — like making sure a certain political viewpoint is taught or endowing an art gallery (no college or university has any need of an art gallery), donate your money to the toilet. That will cause fewer headaches in the end.

There’s still room to make money on the second billion . . .

Apple’s App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch has served its one-billionth application, only nine months after the store opened . . .

Apple just revealed that the winner of its billion app download contest is Connor Mulcahey from Weston, Connecticut. The 13 year-old downloaded the billionth app called Bump, a tool for swapping information such as contact details and photos.

(“Apple Hits 1 Billion App Store Downloads,” PC World, April 24) Of course, Apple removed Baby Shaker because if it was app number one billion, well, a whole lot of shaking would have gone down. So there you have it: one billion reasons why lots of solopreneurs and shoestring entrepreneurs are making a pretty good living off the iPhone/iTouch API. And what app do you have bubbling in the back of your mind?

And while you’re enjoying that one billionth app on your iPhone, say goodbye to the last Pontiac.

General Motors is preparing to announce that the Pontiac car brand, once marketed as GM’s “Excitement division,” will be killed off, according to a source familiar with the decision.

(“GM to pull the plug on Pontiac,” CNN Money, April 24) Okay, let’s do the math on this thing. In 2008, Pontiac sold more cars than either Cadillac or Buick. Only Chevrolet and GM sold more units. But GM is keeping GM, Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac and dumping Pontiac. Sure, the brand has been, shall we say, amorphous for the last few years — and the Aztek was one of the three ugliest cars ever built (bested only by the Volkswagen Thing and the Scion cardboard-box-with-an-engine) — but you can’t argue with dollars. Here’s the real reason: almost every Pontiac dealer in the nation also sells other brands, such as Buicks. If GM drops starts dropping dealers, state laws all over the country demand that they reimburse those dealers. It cost GM over a billion dollars in dealer payouts to fold the Oldsmobile brand about eight years ago. Pontiac, however, has almost no stand-alone dealers. So no payout. I don’t know about you, but I was raised in Pontiacs and, well, I’ll miss that little red chief below the speedometer.

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