Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
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."
"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
Thursday, June 25, 2009
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
Stage 1*: July 4, Monaco
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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."'
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
"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
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
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/
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
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
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
"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
Monday, June 15, 2009
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
"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
- "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.
"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
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
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"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
"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
The Bond War - Why Paul Krugman and Niall Ferguson are hammering each other about T-Bill interest rates - Daniel Gross.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
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
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
"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
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
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
370 Beach Street - Realtor.com
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.