Sunday, September 30, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
"The dollar, relative to the currencies of most of America’s trading partners, is off about 20 percent from its early 2002 peak. Americans haven’t been saving in sufficient amounts, so the United States must import savings from abroad in order to grow. It has to run a record trade deficit in order to attract that foreign capital. Whilst the United States fails to address its saving problem, its large balance of payments deficit will persist and the dollar will keep dropping. The endgame could be considerably more treacherous for the United States than before. The American consumer is now at risk. Consumption expenditures currently account for a record 72 percent of the gross domestic product — a number unmatched in the history of any nation. This buying has been supported by housing and lending bubbles. The days of open-ended American consumption are likely to finally come to an end. That will make it hard to avoid a recession. Fearful of that, foreign investors are becoming increasingly skittish over buying dollar-based assets. Foreign appetite for US financial instruments is likely to be sharply reduced for years to come. That lowers capital inflows, putting more downward pressure on the dollar. Political winds are also blowing against the dollar. New legislation is likely that would impose trade sanctions on China unless it makes a major adjustment in its currency. Not only is this a policy blunder — attempting to fix a multilateral deficit with more than 40 nations by forcing an exchange rate adjustment with one country — but it would also amount to Washington taxing one of America’s major foreign lenders. That would undoubtedly reduce China’s desire for United States assets, and the dollar would come under even more pressure. Moreover, the more the Fed under Ben Bernanke follows the easy-money Alan Greenspan script, the greater the risk to the dollar. Why worry about a weaker dollar? A drop in the dollar makes imports more expensive — the functional equivalent of a tax hike on consumers. It could also stoke fears of inflation — driving up long-term interest rates and putting more pressure on financial markets and the economy, exacerbating recession risks. History is clear: no nation has ever devalued its way into prosperity."
taken from an op-ed by Stephen S. Roach (Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia) in the IHT
There are hundreds of articles explaining why lower interest rates are bad for the dollar and the US economy. I do not disagree with any of them. It is difficult to write off the USA and its wealth generating abilities. There will be an end to the bad news. Unfortunately I do not think that is coming any time soon.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
"A race replica of the Italian company's awesome 990cc GP6 MotoGP weapon, the world's fastest grand prix motorcycle, makes a mockery of the word "idle" as the V-four motor settles into its hunting growl."
Left the office, rushed for later train than usual, beers on train, met Paddy and caught up, arrived in Shimoda, sat around the fire for a few more drinks with Chris, Junko, Jon and Naomi, went to bed.
Joli was up at 4am for the fishing trip, Pep and I said 'safe sailing' and returned to bed, got up around 8am, tried a new walk along the river which turned out to be different but a bit dull, got back home and started reading Graeme Obree's autobiography 'The Flying Scotsman', Joli called from Toji Towers around 1pm, performed as dutiful hubbie should and went to collect, she went to bed to catch up on lost sleep, I carried on with the book, set off for Toji Towers around 6pm, huge feast-like spread was laid on by Jo and Bertie, bbq-ed all the fish caught that morning, watched England v Samoa, was very pleased that someone had organised a win for England, walked home and to bed.
Sunday started with bacon and scrambled eggs, more reading and general lazing about in the sunshine, Pep got a long walk, finished the book - highly highly recommended reading - Jol and I went off to Demarni's for a delicious set dinner, bottle or so of wine and then back home to a very quiet compound and so we were all tucked up at a fairly decent hour.
Monday was yet another Japanese holiday - lucky souls that we are, more of the same, started a Wilbur Smith which I think I will manage to get through rather quickly but not ultimately enjoy as much as Mr. Obree's life story, we had pasta in front of the tv for supper, and set off rather late - after 9pm - back to Tokyo, but back at midnight so happy with that.
Am off to Hong Kong tomorrow for a few days, then back to go collect the new pup!
Friday, September 21, 2007
[P]olice now believe that the arms caches were an elaborate scam carried out by Haase and Bennett to secure their early release from prison.
In February and March, Haase and six associates were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice “in relation to facilitation of a royal pardon for two serving prisoners in 1996.”"
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The boys from Essex let a Rocky-inspired advert sell their new RS2000. 'Adrian!'
• Nissan Almera GTi
Nissan sends up The Sweeney to promote the Almera GTi. Shut it!
• Austin Allegro
Austin's new Allegro is taken for a test drive in a quarry. And all the wife can think about is what colour she wants.
• Vauxhall Calibra
Who would have thought that Vauxhall could kid themselves into thinking that the Calibra was 'car of the decade'.
• Ferrari's F1 history
A glorious celebration of the blood red Italian cars. Sit back, turn up the volume, and enjoy.
• Noel Edmonds and Austin Rover
Noel Edmonds sells his soul as he declares the Montego estate 'the most stylish estate car ever designed'.
• Peugeot 405
Peugeot does its bit for global warming by setting fire to a crop plantation, all in the name of the 405.
• Ford Puma
Steve McQueen is back from the dead to promote a small, front-wheel drive Ford: the Puma.
• Honda Accord 'Cog'
The Cog. Three weeks and over 300 takes for the Honda Accord Tourer.
• Saab 900
Saab plunders whatever aircraft heritage it may have to promote the 900.
Update. It works! :)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Will was on his usual form. Full of beans having just got over a bout of flu. He had cried off joining us on Thursday night for that exact reason. I had been mildly concerned that he might have jumped on the plane home on Friday morning, but luckily the air freshener he was given in return for his "I need Lemsip" charade skills in a pharmacy in Seoul seemed to do the trick.
We tucked into some excellent steaks over a couple of bottles of 2002 Silver Oak. Smashing. We were busy putting the worlds wrongs right when Macca called demanding our prescence at Amrta Bar. It seemed he had been hanging about awaiting our arrival for a while and was getting lonely. So off we went.
Amrta is a great little bar in Nishi Azabu, suitably out of the way to not get mobbed and run by well-trained staff. Its a great place to drink and talk. As is usually the case time flew. By 3:30am Will seemed keen to either find a place to watch the rugby (England v South Africa 4am K/O) or hit a nightclub. I was contemplating my journey to Shimoda in a few short hours too much to really relish the concept of drinking more, staying out later or worse of all watching England no doubt choke their key group game. I made my farewells and headed home.
Its always bittersweet seeing Will and Duffy. I really miss having them around in Tokyo as was the case a few years back. So as much fun as it is to see them, there is always the realisation that it'l be a fair few months til it happens again. Ho hum, such is life.
Joli woke me from my slumbers at 7:14am to announce first, that it was bucketing it down in Shimoda and the she needed me to bring her glasses with me. I drifted back off to sleep very happy to have forced myself to drink lots of water before sleeping. Alarm at 8am. Grabbed my iPod, some money and Joli's glasses and walked down to Shinagawa station (10minutes from home) in the bright sunshine and blue skies. Bought myself a Green car ticket on the Odoriko direct to Shimoda for 9:07am. With a big bottle of water in hand I stuck some chillout music on and dozed my way to the beach.
11:44am in Shimoda, Midday at the shack. Sunny with blue skies. I did wonder if my wife had dreamt the rain or was just cheking up on me. The rain, however, was confirmed later by some surf buddies. Went to bed to nurse my head. 'Nuff said.
Dragged myself back into the land of the living around 3pm. We headed to Sunnyside Cafe with Pepper for a hair of the dog around 5pm. Met Ken and his lovely wife for a chat, then nipped home to feed the pooch. After which we were back out to South Cafe for dinner. Busy as usual. Saw Matt, Jim and a group of friends from TAC. Settled into dinner. Shot the breeze. Paradise Cafe for drinks after and started to watch the Australia/Wales match. Thursday and Friday nights were beginning to catch up on me so we headed home to bed at halftime.
Sunday was relaxed and lazy. Very pleasant drinks and dinner at Toji Towers with Bertie et al. The highlight for me was the homemade pasta production line of Bertie, Matt and I. The nesting needed more work! Again, we were sensible and decided to walk home with Pepper at a very reasonable hour. It was particularly pleasant walking along Ohama beach under the stars.
Monday was a holiday in Japan and hence no office to rush back to. I managed to finish a couple of books. Bunker 13 which by the time I had finished it I realised I had thouroughly enjoyed. The other wasn't exactly forgettable, but not really worth mentioning.. Ok, Ok.. competely forgettable. I cannot remeber the title at all. Joli made dinner, we cleared the house up and the headed home around 8:30pm. Hit a little traffic on the Tomei but home at midnight. Inevitable to get a little jam I guess after a long weekend of people going home to visit their elderly relatives for ' Respect for the Aged Day'.
Four Day week ahead. Love those. Dinner out at my current favourite Tokyo restaurant - Sant Pau - on Wednesday night. Back to the beach for the weekend on Friday with yet another Monday holiday - Autumnal Equinox Day - to enjoy. Tough huh? :)
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
That is how Bank of England governor Mervyn King described his submission to the House of Commons Treasury select committee, released on Wednesday.
The paper, sent to committee chair John McFall ahead of Mr King’s appearance before the committee on September 20, is a look at what central banks can do in response to recent market turmoil.
The letter and entire paper are available to read online. But here’s the conclusion - and it’s hardline. Don’t expect the Bank to get you out of this one.
"The path ahead is uncertain. There are strong private incentives to market players to recognise early and transparently their exposures to off-balance sheet entities and to accelerate the re-pricing of asset-backed securities. Policy actions must be supportive of this process. Injections of liquidity in normal money market operations against high quality collateral are unlikely by themselves to bring down the LIBOR spreads that reflect a need for banks collectively to finance the expansion of their balance sheets. To do that, general injections of liquidity against a wider range of collateral would be necessary. But unless they were made available at an appropriate penalty rate, they would encourage in future the very risk-taking that has led us to where we are. All central banks are aware that there are circumstances in which action might be necessary to prevent a major shock to the system as a whole. Balancing these considerations will pose considerable challenges, and in present circumstances judging that balance is something we do almost daily.
The key objectives remain, first, the continuous pursuit of the inflation target to maintain economic stability and, second, ensuring that the financial system continues to function effectively, including the proper pricing of risk. If risk continues to be under-priced, the next period of turmoil will be on an even bigger scale. The current turmoil, which has at its heart the earlier under-pricing of risk, has disturbed the unusual serenity of recent years, but, managed properly, it should not threaten our long-run economic stability."
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
"..measurements in the metric system come from scientific principles and calculation, the age-old English measurements at the heart of the imperial system are based on nature and everyday activities. For example, the measure called the grain, which forms one seven-thousandth of a pound, is the weight of one grain of wheat or barleycorn, while a league is based on the distance that can be walked in an hour. Fourteenth-century statutes noted a yard of three feet, each foot containing 12 inches, each inch equalling the length of three barleycorns. The imperial system was set up by the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 to create precise definitions of selected existing units. Britain began a transition to metrication in 1965, more fully to mesh its business and trade practices with those of the European Common Market. While children have been taught in metric units since 1974, in practice the two measurement systems exist alongside each other."
I think metric, particularly out on the bike where kms make more sense to me than miles, but I can't imagine ordering something other than a PINT of beer in pub.
"Yeo's portrait exceeds the limits of such polite but pointed commentary, entering instead the realm of juvenile protest and caricature. Yeo has only updated the technology used to defile and deface the image of political authority -- a tradition as long and established as portraiture itself."
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
25 Quotes on the Credit Crisis of '07
of particular note..
This is not a rescue. - Goldman Sachs Chief Financial Officer David Viniar after Goldman poured $3 billion into one of its hedge fund.
This is a sort of preemptive rescue. - Eric Kuby, chief investment officer for the Goldman fund mentioned.
When you're in a pit, the first thing to do is to stop digging. - James Ellman, Seacliffe Capital
[C]apitalism without financial failure is not capitalism at all, but a kind of socialism for the rich. - James Grant, Grant's Interest Rate Observer
"The current crisis is a much more complex and wilder breed of cat." Michael J. Kosares USAGold
The question is..
"..why is the mainstream media is doing such a poor job of reporting the nexus of the global energy emergency and the turmoil in global finance.. ..culture has become self-dis-informing.. ..Did the media report on this chain of dangerous fantasy? Not in the least. They were simply mesmerized by the amazing, supernatural rise of nominal house prices.. What the media is missing now is the prospect of a really swift worsening of the problem as exports from the major oil producing nations fall off at a sharper rate than their production declines.. ..media is also failing to get the connection between the supreme commodity that allows the world's industrial economies to operate, and the credibility of a financial sector whose chief mission is to finance the operations of industrial economies.. In the absence of any real prospect for growth, the financial sector dreamed up a system in which we could invest in the manufacture of investment instruments.. And so all the expertise and time of those working in the financial sector has gone into the production of tradable debt vehicles based on abstruse formulas that almost nobody could understand.. ..All this dangerous fantasy gained legitimacy because for a while it seemed to pay off.. ..citizens could acquire houses much bigger and better-equipped than their incomes justified.. ..bankers made whopping fees in enabling the action.. ..higher-up bankers derived un-heard-of bonuses from leveraging the securitized debt from all that, and politicians basked in the glow of a seeming hyper-prosperity.. ..The dream is over now. Reality-based moral hazard is returning (literally) with a vengeance. Right and wrong are going to matter again and a lot of people who put these things aside for a while are going to suffer."
This kind of denial has superficial appeal because, unlike in 1933 when Pecora began his work, we haven't yet had a full-blown crash. But if the government's only response is to wait for the Fed to bail things out and to do a little tweaking of abuses around the edges, that crash will come.
"The question before us," he (Rep.Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee) added speaking more broadly, "is whether there may be a systemic problem here. Has innovation so outstripped financial regulation that we need to catch up, without diminishing the advantages?"
For that, we need a huge middle class with money in their pockets. And that's exactly the problem. Wall Street's crisis is shocking the middle class into realizing how little money it actually has. And that realization may push us smack into a recession."
"Wall Street's tumult shouldn't matter as long as consumers keep buying stuff, so that companies will keep producing it and putting people to work. The worry is the financial crisis will leach into the real economy and cause consumers to stop buying as much as they were buying before.
Friday, September 07, 2007
In 2009, suspecting the worst, Floyd Landis had himself cryogenically frozen, with the instructions that he was to be thawed "when and if those guys ever make up their minds.
Hearing the news, Landis wryly responded, "Well, that figures," and then got on his bike, evidently preparing for what would certainly be a remarkable comeback.
Landis has his work cut out for him if he hopes to win the 2036 Tour de France. He will, of course, have to race against the 21 clones of President Lance Armstrong (teams are limited to 1 clone per team), not to mention the Trek Synthuman / Madone hybrids — the integrated bicycle / purpose-specific lifeforms engineered to spin a cadence of 480rpm at a wattage of 912. For three months straight. Without need for sleep or food.
"Whatever," commented Landis."
Thursday, September 06, 2007
The clerk says, "Well, he came in here this morning to get something for his cough. I couldn't find the cough syrup, so I gave him an entire bottle of laxative."
The owner says, "You idiot! You can't treat a cough with laxatives!"
The clerk says, "Oh yeah? Look at him, he's afraid to cough!"
Luckily I came across this wonderful description of the tasting menu at Boots in the Oven via Serious Eats..
"For the last course, all stops were pulled out. It had a little bit of everything: performance, novelty, humor, presentation, deliciousness… you name it. It started with a lady bringing over a carton holding a half dozen eggs, each bearing the Fat Duck stamp. After we selected our egg, she prepared the anti-pot, a copper apparatus that "cooks" with cold instead of heat.
She cracked our egg into the pot and added a little liquid nitrogen while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. We soon discovered that the eggy insides had been replaced with a bacon flavored gelato mix. I'm also fairly certain that during the initial preparation of the base, it was taken to a higher temperature than normal so that more of the egg proteins set, giving it a distinct egg flavor.
When the gelato was done, it was carefully served on top of bruleed French toast with a paper thin slice of candied bacon that had been coated with a shellac of sucrose. On the bottom, there was a dab of tomato jam and on the side came a glass of chilled tea jelly. See, an entire breakfast!"
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
9.= Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland
12.= Belgium, Luxembourg
17.= Italy, United Kingdom
20. New Zealand
Why We Should Be Allowed to Work, Surf at Office: Commentary by Matthew Lynn
Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Surf on, comrades. The U.K.'s Trades Union Congress has jumped to the defense of workers who goof around on the Internet while they are meant to be slaving away for their bosses.
As employers clamp down on the way their staff use the Internet in the office, unions are staging some resistance.
Companies with ``Internet usage policies'' and restrictions on Facebook and other social-networking sites are just making themselves look ridiculous. They didn't complain when new technology allowed ``work'' to invade our ``home life.'' They have no right to complain now that ``home'' is invading our ``work life.''
There is little mistaking the debate in the U.K. -- and it is one that is likely to be replicated in every other developed economy. How we use our computers at work may not quite rank with global warming or the subprime crisis in the league tables of crucial issues. Yet it may well have more impact on how most of us live our daily lives.
Most office workers have a computer screen and an Internet connection on their desks. Mostly, they will be using that for work. Some of the time, they will be using it for the stuff of everyday life: checking their bank balance, e-mailing their friends, or researching which brand of golf club might finally get their swing sorted out.
Employers, not surprisingly, put some restrictions on that. A survey by the U.K.'s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform found that 89 percent of big companies and 63 percent of all companies had an ``acceptable usage policy.'' Likewise, 80 percent of big companies log and monitor Web usage.
Some employers are getting even tougher. Kent County Council has just banned its 32,000 employees from using Facebook, according to a report on the British Broadcasting Corp. The law firm Allen & Overy banned Facebook earlier this year, then backed down after complaints from staff, according to the trade magazine Legal Week.
It's not surprising the Trades Union Congress, which represents 6.5 million U.K. workers, is taking a stand. ``Simply cracking down on use of new Web tools like Facebook is not a sensible solution to a problem, which is only going to get bigger,'' General Secretary Brendan Barber said in a statement last week. ``It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology.''
They could probably have gone further. Employees are entitled to spend at least part of the day on line. While it is reasonable for employers to stop their staff looking at pornographic, violent or racist Web sites, if they try and restrict day-to-day surfing, it's pointless.
There are three reasons for that.
First, the Internet has blurred old boundaries between work and non-work time. We all check our e-mails and take business calls on our mobiles when we are ``off'' work. The Blackberry means we are constantly ``in the office.'' So our bosses can hardly complain if we do our banking, plan our holidays or just relax by sending e-mail jokes in the workplace. If work seeps into home life, it isn't surprising that home has seeped into work life as well. If it hadn't, it would hardly be fair.
Next, people have to interact with the world around them. They need to have ideas and be aware of what is happening elsewhere. While they may appear to be surfing aimlessly, employees might well be picking up valuable information. They may be looking up old school friends on Facebook, or making contacts that will be useful for work. And who knows, that fat boy you used to flick pellets at in school could turn out to be a great customer if only you could track him down.
Lastly, there is an element of double standards. The same companies that prevent their staff from surfing are quite happy to make money from other people's employees doing precisely that. Aren't they spending fortunes on Web advertising? Who do they think is clicking on those ads and where? Aren't they all selling their products on the Web, to people surfing in offices?
If a bank spends millions on a Web site for its customers, it has to assume many of them will be using it in the office. It can't complain if some of their workers sort out their car insurance at their desks.
The reality is that you can no more hope to control people using the Web than you can control them using the office phone to ring their mother, or asking the secretary to buy their children a present. Overall, the Internet has made everyone more productive. It has certainly meant they are always chained to the office. To complain about people using the Internet at work is just mean-spirited.
Now, having got that off my chest, I can go back to booking a hotel room and checking out the reviews of those golf clubs.
Good point. Time to goof.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
You know what the new network is? It's me. I don't think people have quite figured this out yet, but just as Pixar was once a medical imaging company until I decided to make it into something completely different -- ie, the most important entertainment company of the 21st century -- so Apple is not really a computer company anymore, or even a consumer electronics company. We're a network. We take content and distribute it out to millions of people, who play it on handhelds (sold by me) and computer screens (ditto) and yes, maybe, sometimes, on actual TV sets. At one end of the value chain, the consumer end, people have already voted. They like my system better than yours.
At the other end it's trickier. We don't deal directly with the content producers. Instead, we have to deal with these network gatekeepers. But why? What value are they adding? As far as I can see the only thing the networks add is an extra step and a big scoop off the margin.
The producers of content don't like the TV network system but can't quite see the way across the divide into my digital world. Some musical artists, like Prince, are figuring it out, but they're isolated examples. Trust me, however, when I tell you that TV and movie people will figure it out too. These are not stupid people. And they are not un-greedy. Which means their desire for more money and more control and more freedom will lead them to apply their energy into figuring out how to get out of the plantation the TV networks have created for them. They will break free. Mark my words."
wise words from fake steve jobs
Monday, September 03, 2007
"Apparently the FHA proposal involves some 80,000 loans, which doesn't amount to much of anything. So maybe this is all just politics, if the program doesn't grow in scope. But I'm suspicious it will be growing. And I think this is just plain bad policy."
I don't like this either.. accruedinterest
Once there I quickly changed into a pair of shorts and walked down to Shinagawa station. Tickets in hand I headed for Dean & Deluca to buy dinner and more importantly a bottle of wine. With some sort of salad thing in hand, and a bottle of Californian Sauvignon Blanc, I settled into Seat 5A, Carriage 8 on the 589 Bullet train to Nagoya.
Forty-five minutes later I alighted at Atami to change to the local train to Ito. With half the wine gone and at another hour and a half to travel I applied careful planning and foresight to pick up two tins of Chu-hai - simply a canned shochu cocktail, historically these are lemon flavoured, by I opted for grapefruit, think vodka grapefruit soda and you are on the right track.
At Ito, I had to change once more - a simple crossing of the platform - to the Shimoda bound train. On this train I found Bertie, Georgia and Matt. We proceeded to finish all the booze we had amongst us and fatally, I consumed BOTH cans of Chuhai.
Off the train in Shimoda at 9:30pm and straight to Paradise Cafe via cab. At which point I don't remember much. A stagger here and there.. Joli, Pepper, Jack, Chris and Junko arriving.. vague recollection of taking Pepper home.. waking in the morning quite surprised to find myself in Shimoda and not in Tokyo. Surprisingly little to no hangover. Excellent.
Picked up one of the paperbacks I bought at Heathrow on the way back from London the other week. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. The prequel to Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. Not too sure why I had picked this book up. I think it was a 3 for 20 quid deal and it caught my eye. Glad it did. Spent the rest of Saturday engrossed. Scrambled eggs and bagels for brunch. Pottered about the shack a little, back to the book.
Took Pepper down to the beach at about 4:30pm for a run. Met Jack, Chris and Junko there. We headed back to the compound and then set off for Bertie, Jo and Matt's new house. They had bought a place down on Toji beach earlier in the year. It has been gutted and then redone. Furnishings via Bali and Voila! Amazing house. I didn't have a camera, so no shots, but the view from the kitchen across the living area of the sea is truly inspiring. Jo's hard work has produced a fantastic place. No idea how they manage to drag themselves away from such a lovely home every Sunday evening for the trip back to Tokyo. I hope we get invited round often.
We headed back to the compound for dinner. Cheese platter to start, an amazing raw Tuna salad a la Junko, coconut chicken, leg of lamb butterflied off the bone and perfectly barbecued by John. All washed down with three large Dark and Stormies. Perfect. I crept off to bed whilst an iPod war was going on.
Awoke Sunday to a mildly hungover wife (too much pre-dinner champagne) and another perfect late summer's day. Finished the last three or four chapters of the book and then dozed. Managed to walk Pepper a couple of times, ate a little, watched Bullitt in the late afternoon, packed up, set-off at 8:08pm and arrived home just before 11pm.
So didn't achieve anything noteworthy all weekend beyond reading a book and drinking too much. Didn't cycle or exercise which is bad, but had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend all in all.
Roll on Friday.