Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Inspiring



With David, Jerome, David & Juliana in Europe at the Transalp, Chris about to leave for Europe to do L'Etape and the TdF looming, I am equal measures jealous, inspired and raring to ride this Sunday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Vegan?

Click the thumbnail.

The Toaster Project

"I'm Thomas Thwaites and I'm trying to build a toaster, from scratch - beginning by mining the raw materials and ending with a product that Argos sells for only £3.99. A toaster."

The Toaster Project

"Finding ways to process the raw materials on a domestic scale is also an issue. For example, my first attempt to extract metal involved a chimney pot, some hair-dryers, a leaf blower, and a methodology from the 15th century – this is about the level of technology we can manage when we're acting alone. I failed to get pure enough iron in this way, though if I'd tried a few more times and refined my technique and knowledge of the process I probably would've managed in the end. Instead I found a 2001 patent about industrial smelting of Iron ores using microwave energy.

Microwaves, as we all know, are just so much more convenient - and so I tried to replicate the industrial process outlined in the patent using a domestic microwave. After some not-so-careful experimentation which necessitated another microwave, followed by some careful experimentation, I got the timing and ingredients right and made a blob of iron about as big as a 10p coin."

The next bubble, cap-and-trade

"If cap-and-trade succeeds, won't we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming? Maybe - but cap-and-trade, as envisioned by Goldman, is really just a carbon tax structured so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax-collection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it's even collected.

"If it's going to be a tax, I would prefer that Washington set the tax and collect it," says Michael Masters, the hedge fund director who spoke out against oil-futures speculation. "But we're saying that Wall Street can set the tax, and Wall Street can collect the tax. That's the last thing in the world I want. It's just asinine.""

Lifted from the same Rolling Stone article linked to on Friday, follow Matt Taibbi's blog here.

Goldman Sachs responds.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vampire Squid

"Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression - and they're about to do it again. The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." Matt Taibbi - Rolling Stone via Scribd.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tough day at the office



112 km, 1900m, avg. spd 21km/hr.

Good ride on well traveled roads and for me the first time out after my bike fit. I don't think I rode close to my best, but a thoroughly enjoyable day out with Mob and DH.

We went from coast road, to steep climbs, to shaded descents. From rain, to fog, to sunshine. We took a bullet train to Mishima, then rode to Sunnyside Cafe on Ohama Beach, before taking the train back from Shimoda.

I have some new aches and pains this morning, but nothing too serious. The new position is engaging muscles in new areas. I think I have to get some mileage done before I am fully comfortable on the bike again.

Something to work on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

TdF 2009

The 6 can't miss stages via bicycling.com

Stage 1*: July 4, Monaco
Distance: 15km
Individual time trial
The Tour hasn't visited Monaco in 45 years—partly because the principality is so small that wrapping 15km of racing into its 2 square kilometers is a trick. But what Monaco lacks in size it makes up for in star power—something the race also possesses for its 96th edition. Three former Tour winners will line up at the start. THE BETTING LINE: Look for the GC favorites to come out hard; Armstrong in particular has to send a message about his form. With no time bonuses on offer again this year, breakaway artists like Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) will be motivated to turn in good times to position themselves for an early yellow jersey via a breakaway in the coming stages. *Only stages 8km or shorter are considered prologues, which is why this year's race begins with Stage 1.

Stage 4: July 7, Montpellier
Distance: 38km
Team time trial
The TTT returns for the first time since 2005, and gone are the goofy rules limiting maximum time losses. That means the climbers' teams can't coast--and the weaker teams could lose minutes over those 38km. THE BETTING LINE: The stage is about team strength and cohesiveness. Squads with a strong esprit des corps—think Saxo Bank, Columbia, Garmin and Cervelo—are solid picks, although the formidable TT talent of Armstrong's team may trump them all: His teams ruled this stage from '03 to '05.

Stage 7: July 10, Barcelona to Andorra Arcalis
Distance: 224km
Mountaintop finish
The longest mountain stage in the Tour features only two climbs, but the finish at Arcalis is deceptively difficult. The only previous finish here, in 1997, saw Jan Ullrich destroy climbers Marco Pantani and Richard Virenque, so the ascent seems better suited to powerful rhythm climbers than to those who favor explosive attacks. THE BETTING LINE: The final climb plays to the strengths of riders such as Liquigas's Ivan Basso, Evans and Armstrong. Don't count out Contador, however—he has the chops to both motor smoothly and put in stunning attacks.

Stage 17: July 22, Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Le Grand Bornand
Distance: 169km
Mountain
Despite being shorter than some mountain stages, this may be the toughest pure climbing day, partly because it comes between a previous mountain stage and the final individual TT. Riders head straight into the crucible, climbing at the start and continuing over five categorized passes before the tricky descent to Le Grand Bornand. THE BETTING LINE: Lots of subtext here. Some climbers will launch early attacks for the KOM competition, others will be going for a stage win, and GC hopefuls will be trying to pad time gaps for tomorrow's TT. Armstrong won here in 2004,* but via a different climb. *Armstrong actually tried to give the stage to Floyd Landis ("Ride like you stole something," he instructed)--but Jan Ullrich was having none of that.

Stage 18: July 23, Annecy
Distance: 40km
Individual time trial
A TT built for an overall contender. There are no genuine climbs on this medium-distance course, but the rolling hills that dot the lakeside will break up the rhythm of specialists such as Garmin's David Zabriskie or pure power producers like Fabian Cancellara. THE BETTING LINE: Look for Armstrong, Contador or Evans to do well; Schleck and Sastre may have a tougher go. If he recovers from breaking vertebrae in the Giro d'Italia, Christian Vande Velde, who tends to improve in the last week of a Grand Tour, could make a move.

Stage 20: July 25, Montelimar to Mont Ventoux
Distance: 167km
Mountaintop finish
Ventoux* hasn't been featured since 2002, and the Tour's most feared climb has never loomed so close to the finish. Racers will tackle the peak from the north—its toughest approach. The long 9 percent pitches (plus several ramps past 10) are plenty tough; Ventoux's rocky, treeless landscape is like racing on the moon: There's no air. THE BETTING LINE: All bets are off; anything can happen here. In 2002, the day's top 10 riders spread over four minutes between them and Armstrong almost doubled his lead on Joseba Beloki. There are no tomorrows, no next chances. Anyone who wants to win the Tour must go here, and now. *Armstrong has never won on Ventoux.

After reading a broad range of books, I have my doubts about him, but I think I'll still be routing for Armstrong.


Plus:
"With just 12 days to go before the start in Monaco, the only thing that seems clear at this point is that, for all its strength, Astana’s biggest opponent at the Tour may be Astana. Whether Armstrong, Contador or some other challenger will emerge victorious, only the race will tell."
Lance’s Team Split - Bicycling.com

Trust the government? Ask an Indian.

'Indian Chief Two Eagles was asked by a white government official, "You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."

The Chief nodded in agreement.

The official continued, "Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?"

The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied. "When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex."

Then the chief leaned back and smiled. "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."'

via angrybear

Iran

"I really hope it was rigged."

Quadir, a university student in Iran, saying that government corruption in the contested election is preferable to the alternative - that 24 million Iranians really did vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

via Newsweek.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nice call

NB. This from 2007 as the original iPhone was due to be launched.

"These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.

There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive.

What Apple risks here is its reputation as a hot company that can do no wrong. If it's smart it will call the iPhone a "reference design" and pass it to some suckers to build with someone else's marketing budget. Then it can wash its hands of any marketplace failures.

It should do that immediately before it's too late. Samsung Electronics Ltd. might be a candidate. Otherwise I'd advise you to cover your eyes. You're not going to like what you'll see."

Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone - Marketwatch


From Monday.. Apple sells more than 1 million iPhone 3GS - Reuters

Monday, June 22, 2009

iPhone 3G S


Not yet, but could go this way.. click to enlarge

Sunday, June 21, 2009

FFD

Sunday was my first Father's Day.

A bit of a washout as rainy season here is in full swing, but we managed a very nice walk later in the afternoon with Pepper & Dylan.

Love this photo we took yesterday of Milly in the pool. Nearly 9 months old now!

Rain stopped play


The forecast for today.. not the most inspiring forecast for a day on the bike.. back to bed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bike Fit at HiRoad

Over the last few years I know I have tweaked and fiddled with my bike set-up to the point where I am no longer 100% confident it is correct set-up anymore. For this reason I wanted to get a professional bike-fit done.

Some internet research led me to Aoyama-san at Sports Bikes HiRoad today. He is an ex-employee of Y's bikes in Akasaka, but branched out on his own 2 years ago, setting up his shop in Koyama 18 months ago. He provides professional bike-fitting analysis and advice using www.bikefitting.com.

Firstly, he completely readjusted my Look cleat positions after measuring my feet and checking the exact position of the ball of my foot whilst wearing my cycling shoes. The result was to move the cleat forward and in. This in itself was probably worth the visit to his small store.

He conducted a short interview to learn a little about riding style, then did a set of very precise body measurements. This data is sent to the database in Holland, after which it returns the optimal bike geometry measurements.

He then sets this 'perfect' bike on his simulator. On the simulator you can try out the set-up. Aoyama-san uses his experience to talk you through cycling technique, lower body physiology and upper body position. He then 'tweaks' the simulator to try a few different positions, eg. lower bars, more forward, higher, etc.



Before the "shoulder" explanation




After the "shoulder" explanations




The www.bikefitting.com set-up. Gripping firmer. It is a bit too far and we revised it.




Revision 1. Slightly easy. 0mm vertical and 20mm closer on horizontal slides.




Revision 2. Slightly agressive. 20mm lower vertical and 10mm closer (10mm further than revision 1) on horizontal slides.


Once comfortable he measures the rig and then produces a comprehensive pdf file for your reference and to adjust your bike to.

The whole process took 3 hrs. The outcome was to raise the saddle significantly (very surprised), move it backwards a touch and drop the bars.

It feels great. Noticeably less weight in my hands and definitely a feeling of more power transfer and control. I am looking forward to my ride tomorrow!

If you are interested Aoyama-san speaks excellent English and his website is http://hiroad.biz/

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Tea Coca-Cola

Taste test...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Excessive

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Project Bloodhound

"The jet that will propel the car up to 300mph comes from a Eurofighter Typhoon engine. The rocket which sits on top of the jet is a Falcon, developing 25,000lbs of thrust. Add that to the jet’s 20,000lbs of thrust and Andy Green will be sitting on enough power to put him into space if the vehicle was intended to lift off.

When Green speaks, he describes the 9g load of gravity for which he must train, a load which would snap a normal person into a blackout instaneously. ‘What happens if you do black out?’ someone asks. Green looks at him for a long, still second and then says, ‘We have to make absolutely sure that doesn’t happen.’"

Building the fastest car in the world - Telegraph

Bigger than Don Johnson

"ROME — Two Japanese nationals were detained by Italian financial police last week after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of undeclared U.S. bonds, mostly Treasury bonds, an Italian daily said Wednesday. The Japanese consulate general in Milan confirmed that the detention had taken place and said it was trying to confirm with Italian authorities whether the two were indeed Japanese nationals and their identities.

According to the report in il Giornale, two unidentified Japanese in their 50s concealed the bonds, including 249 U.S. Treasury bonds each worth $500 million, in a suitcase with a false bottom that was searched by the Italian authorities June 3 when they were in Chiasso, at the border with Switzerland, about 50 kilometers north of Milan. The daily did not say on what charges they have been detained, but the two may have been detained on suspicion of attempting to take a large amount of securities out of Italy without declaring it because the paper said they had not declared the bonds."

2 Japanese carrying $134 bil worth of U.S. bonds detained in Italy - Japan Today

Consider: These two men were carrying the Gross Domestic Product of New Zealand, enough to make them the fourth largest U.S. creditor in the world. This story seems to have gotten little attention in the financial markets. Perhaps because of the absurdity of the current time, it is not strange that two travelers have more U.S. debt than Brazil in a suitcase. Can the bonds be real? Fakes? If they are fake, that cannot be good news. I doubt the U.S. Treasury will be happy about MORE U.S. debt popping up around the world. If they are genuine, the smugglers can be fined up to 40%. That should help Italy's budget deficit. Lots of questions, not many answers. Yet.

Suitcase with $134Billion puts Dollar on edge - William Pesek

UPDATE:
"Italian and US secret services working together soon concluded that the bills and accompanying bank documents were most probably counterfeit, the latest handiwork of the Italian Mafia. “They are all fraudulent, it’s obvious. We don’t even have paper securities outstanding for that value,’’ said Mckayla Braden, senior adviser for public affairs at the Bureau of Public Debt at the US Treasury department. “This type of scam has been going on for years.’’ The Treasury has not issued physical Treasury bonds since the 1980s – they are handled electronically – though they still issue savings bonds in paper format. In Washington a US Secret Service official said the agency, which is working with the Italian authorities, believed the bonds were fake."

Mafia blamed for $134bn fake Treasury bills - FT.com

Bond-smuggling mystery thickens — like a lumpy stew

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fray vs The Police vs Black Eyed Peas vs 2pac.

DJ Earworm, "Kanye West’s latest album was a real change of pace for him, veering more towards moody pop than hip-hop. Recently, I did a mashup of his “Love Lockdown” with Radiohead’s “Reckoner”.
When I heard The Fray performing this beautiful cover of Kanye’s “Heartless” on BBC’s Radio 1, it really seemed to capture the song’s melancholy feeling. The Police’s “Message in a Bottle” also fit the mood, and for the beat I used a sloooowwwed down “Boom Boom Pow”, the Black Eyed Peas’ inescapable hit.
Kanye based his original “Heartless” on a sample by the Alan Parsons Project, “Ammonia Avenue”, so I grabbed that sample, and also added a little bit of 2Pac’s “Dear Mama”, where he talks about being “heartless”."
And here’s the video for it:'

Monday, June 15, 2009

Outwitted

"The trade involved credit-default swaps and securities backed by subprime mortgages. The original securities had been sold by Lehman Brothers and were backed by $335 million of subprime mortgages mostly on homes in California made at the housing bubble's peak in 2005, according to the prospectus.

Following a wave of refinancing and defaults, only $29 million of the loans were left outstanding by March 2009, half of which were delinquent or in default, according to a performance report by Moody's Investors Service.

Believing the securities would become worthless, traders at J.P. Morgan bought credit-default swaps over the past year from Amherst, according to people familiar with the matter. Credit-default swaps act like insurance, paying off the buyer if securities are hit by losses. Other banks including RBS Securities, which is the U.S. investment-banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, and BofA also bought swaps on the securities from different trading partners.

The banks had to pay up for the protection, similar to a person buying insurance on a beach house just before a hurricane. They paid as much as 80 to 90 cents for every dollar of insurance, the going rate last fall according to dealer quotes, expecting to receive a dollar back when the securities became worthless over the coming months.

Traders can buy credit-default swaps on securities they don't own. At one point, at least $130 million of bets had been made on the performance of around $27 million in securities, according to a person familiar with the matter.

In late April, traders at some banks were shocked to find out from monthly remittance reports that the bonds they had bet against had been paid off in full. Normally an investor can't pay off loans like that but if the amount of outstanding loans falls to less than 10% of the original pool, the servicer -- or company that collects mortgage payments from homeowners and forwards them to investors who own the securities -- can buy them and make bondholders whole.

That's what happened in this case. In April, a servicer called Aurora Loan Services at the behest of Amherst purchased the remaining loans and paid off the bonds."

A Daring Trade Has Wall Street Seething - WSJ

Or in other words.

"It appears from the WSJ account as if little Amherst Holdings of Austin, Texas was happy to sell the big guys like J.P. Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Bank of America something like $130 million notional CDS on a $27 million credit event, used the proceeds to buy off and make good the underlying subprime loans, and pocketed $70 million or so for their troubles. The big guys, on the other hand, paid perhaps a hundred million and got back zip."

How to lose a sure-fire bet - Econobrowser

Great.

"Custom-made derivatives only serve to improve the profit margin of the financial engineers designing them. In fact, some derivatives ought not to be traded at all. I have in mind credit default swaps. Consider the recent bankruptcy of AbitibiBowater and that of General Motors. In both cases, some bondholders owned CDS and stood to gain more by bankruptcy than by reorganisation. It is like buying life insurance on someone else’s life and owning a licence to kill him. CDS are instruments of destruction that ought to be outlawed."

The three steps to financial reform - George Soros in the FT via Dominic and Economist's View

H1N1 Flu

On Thursday the World Health Organisation (WHO) today raised the status of the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus to level 6 - full Pandemic. This requires further explanation:
  • "Pandemic" status reflects geography, not severity ie it is the global spread of the virus which affords Pandemic status, not an increase in the severity or danger of the disease.
  • Countries with the fastest growing number of cases are in the southern hemisphere (Australia and Chile) which is entering its winter period when flu viruses are most likely to spread.

Venom.

"What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in."

"That honeymoon, if it was one, is over. Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up."

"Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler."

"Last week it was business as usual, as Republican leaders nattered ad infinitum over the juvenile rivalry of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich at the party’s big Washington fund-raiser. Few if any mentioned, let alone questioned, the ominous script delivered by the actor Jon Voight with the G.O.P. imprimatur at that same event. Voight’s devout wish was to “bring an end to this false prophet Obama.”"

"This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-Scriptural call to action, is toxic. It is getting louder each day of the Obama presidency. No one, not even Fox News viewers, can say they weren’t warned."

The Obama Haters’ Silent Enablers - NY Times

Toxic indeed. This is a lot of HATE. I am very uncomfortable with the pseudo-Scriptural nature of some of the commentary too. Some people really need to get over themselves. Bunch of wingnuts.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Shimoda for the weekend

Headed down to the beach on the train on Friday night. Pepper and Dylan stayed with Mylene in Tokyo - Pepper is in heat and not too happy. Had a lovely weekend, including a great bbq at Bertie & Jo's place. Hopped the train back on Sunday afternoon around 5pm. Milly seemed to enjoy the trains, but not the alterations to her sleep schedule. Saying that it was still a great weekend out of the city.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Result



I am pleased with my Fuji efforts this year.

The elusive 1hr30mins got a little bit closer.

Roll on next year.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

FHC2009 #4366 1:34:50







Over at the Positivo blog I have posted pictures of everyone who competed last Sunday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Better smaller

"The Obama administration has succumbed to political pressure and scare-mongering by the big banks. As a result, the administration has confused bailing out the bankers and their shareholders with bailing out the banks."

"This new form of ersatz capitalism, in which losses are socialized and profits privatized, is doomed to failure. Incentives are distorted. There is no market discipline. The too-big-to-be-restructured banks know that they can gamble with impunity - and, with the Federal Reserve making funds available at near-zero interest rates, there are ample funds to do so."

"We need to break up the too-big-to-fail banks; there is no evidence that these behemoths deliver societal benefits that are commensurate with the costs they have imposed on others. And, if we don't break them up, then we have to severely limit what they do. They can't be allowed to do what they did in the past - gamble at others' expenses.

This raises another problem with America's too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-be-restructured banks: they are too politically powerful. Their lobbying efforts worked well, first to deregulate, and then to have taxpayers pay for the cleanup. Their hope is that it will work once again to keep them free to do as they please, regardless of the risks for taxpayers and the economy. We cannot afford to let that happen."

America's socialism for the rich: Corporate welfarism - Joseph E. Stiglitz

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Owner's Workshop Manual

Nice to see that Haynes has issued an Owner's Workshop Manual for NASA's Apollo 11. Very useful if you need to fix your used spaceship.

Tokyo, time-lapsed

static : pulse from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.



"This is why we love this city: There’s an intrinsic, exotic mystery about it that comes through in any photo, video, or even radio report. Our friends and clients come here with a set of expectations that, quite frankly, always turn out to be wrong. The beauty of Tokyo is that (despite not living up to over-hyped expectations) it’s never disappointing because new, wonderful things you never would have imagined pop up all around you.

After all, while I’ve still never found the moving sidewalks, robot butlers, and personal jet-packs I imagined in my dreams before coming to Japan, the spirit of that innovation is alive and well, and I’ve no doubt it will all originate here."

tokyo, time-lapsed - trends in japan

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fergusonians vs. Krugmanites

"The notion that the market is telling us something—anything—ultimately rests on the erroneous assumption that financial markets represent the collective wisdom of rational actors processing information efficiently. There are plenty of cool-minded forward-thinking investors in the markets. But there are also a lot of lunatics, fools, sharks, widows and orphans, government actors with ulterior motives, algorithmic traders, greedy speculators, and whack jobs. The markets resemble the Star Wars bar scene more than they do the economics faculty lounge at Princeton."

The Bond War - Why Paul Krugman and Niall Ferguson are hammering each other about T-Bill interest rates - Daniel Gross.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

FHC2009

5000 riders gather for the Mount Fuji hill climb.


Fuji-san from the start.


Fuji-san at the finish.


Fuji hill climb 2009. Great event, 24km and 1200m vertical. This year was my third time there. Had a good ride up this morning, although the twinges from my right knee that I felt during my Kyushu exertions flared up again. Must get that fixed.

I went 'Zen' today, no HR monitor, speedo, timer, watch, etc. Most interested to see what my time for the course is when published later this week.

We took a number of first timers up there this weekend and, based on the smiling faces, I think everyone had a great time.

I missed the ride back to Tokyo, but decided to err on the side of caution until I get an opinion on this tendon problem. Beautiful day out there today, the 120km home for David(s), Dominic, Michael and Konstantin will be a terrific ride.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Speech

Obama seeks 'new beginning' with Muslim world Click for video highlights.
US president Barack Obama pays tribute to Islam's influence on culture and civilisation in well-received speech in Cairo.

"In an ancient city, America's still-new president aimed to heal a rift that has endured for decades, if not centuries. Barack Obama stood before a crowd of 3,000 in the great hall of Cairo University to deliver a speech that demonstrated not only his trademark eloquence but also the sheer ambition of his purpose – nothing less than bridging the divide between Islam and the west.

"No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust," Obama began, mindful of the expectations that preceded today's event. Still, as he has proved, a major address can have a major impact – and there will be few more masterful speeches than this one.

Whether this sensitive, supple and sophisticated speech will be remembered will depend on whether the rhetoric of respect is matched by a change in action. And that, as Obama admitted, is more than the work of one day."

Barack Obama in Cairo: the speech no other president could make - Guardian

I would imagine this caused a few bulging blood vessels, to say the least, amongst the neo-cons. Suck it up, this is the new reality and 'Amen' to that.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The ducks in the bathroom are not mine

David Thorne of 7-legged spider fame is at it again...

"Thank you for your letter concerning pets in my apartment. I understand that having dogs in the apartment is a violation of the agreement due to the comfort and wellbeing of my neighbours and I am currently soundproofing my apartment with egg cartons as I realise my dogs can cause quite a bit of noise. Especially during feeding time when I release live rabbits."

"I am hoping for a litter of at least ten as this is the number required to participate in dog sled racing. I have read every Jack London novel in preparation and have constructed my own sled from timber I borrowed from the construction site across the road during the night."

"They are very small ducks."

"The ducks will no doubt be flying south for the winter soon so it will not be an issue. It is probably for the best as they are not getting along very well with my seventeen cats anyway. ."

Click to see the whole series of correspondence

Humble

Pearls Before Swine

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

'Be still my beating heart'

"Technology that can “still” a beating heart to allow surgeons to operate robotically on it without the trauma of carrying out a bypass is being developed as part of a series of innovations in surgery.

Lord Darzi of Denham, the Health Minister and a keyhole surgery pioneer, is working on ways to synchronise the movement of the heart with the surgeon’s eye as it continually refocuses on the organ, making it appear still.

The software makes “beating heart” surgery — which reduces the complications associated with stopping the heart to carry out an operation — far easier to conduct. The software is in development, with clinical use planned within the next 18 months."

Lord Darzi develops robotic ‘beating heart’ surgery - timesonline

This is cool. And clever.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cameron's home

"The place is like a museum. It's very beautiful and very cold, and you're not allowed to touch anything." So says the title character in reference to his best friend Cameron's home in the John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The house in question, which is located at 370 Beech Street in Highland Park, Illinois, is indeed rather beautiful, and it's also for sale right now, listed at a cool $2.3 million." autoblog

370 Beach Street - Realtor.com

Jevons paradox

"In economics, the Jevons Paradox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. It is historically called the Jevons Paradox as it ran counter to popular intuition. However, the situation is well understood in modern economics. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given output, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource – which increases demand. Overall resource use increases or decreases depending on which effect predominates.

One way to understand the Jevons Paradox is to observe that an increase in the efficiency with which a resource (e.g., fuel) is used causes a decrease in the price of that resource when measured in terms of what it can achieve (e.g., work). Generally speaking, a decrease in the price of a good or service will increase the quantity demanded (see supply and demand, demand curve). Thus with a lower price for work, more work will be "purchased" (indirectly, by buying more fuel). The resulting increase in the demand for fuel is known as the rebound effect. This increase in demand may or may not be large enough to offset the original drop in demand from the increased efficiency. Jevons Paradox occurs when the rebound effect is greater than 100%, exceeding the original efficiency gains. This greater than 100% rebound is known as backfire.

Consider a simple case: a perfectly competitive market where fuel is the sole input used, and the only determinant of the cost of work. If the price of fuel remains constant, but the efficiency of its conversion into work is doubled, the effective price of work is halved and so twice as much work can be purchased for the same amount of money. If the amount of work purchased more than doubles (i.e. demand for work is elastic, the price elasticity is less than -1), then the quantity of fuel used would actually increase, not decrease. If however, the demand for work is inelastic (elasticity greater than -1 and less than 0), the amount of work purchased would less than double, and the quantity of fuel used would decrease." Jevons paradox - Wikipedia

Or put more simply, persuade your friends to buy Priuses and then you can keep the SUV.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Crises


Trolling my way through my RSS feeds, fighting some fires at work, organising next weekend's trip for the Fuji Hill Climb race, normal posting to resume shortly.