Sunday, January 31, 2010


Milder temperatures this Sunday and the new Rapha jersey came out for the Sunday ride. More importantly this was the first ride with my recently fitted Shimano Di2 transmission.

Michael H, Yair, Dominic and I set off for a quick 100kms or so planning to be back home by 12:30pm. Michael K. joined on the Tama and we headed out to Takao.

A Seven-Eleven stop, re-nourished, water bottles topped off and up the short Otarumi climb.

For the 5.5km, Average HR 156, Average Power 248 watts.

I'll keep an eye on these figures over the next few months and see what I can improve.

Michael K. headed off to Route 76 in search of snow(!) on his cyclo-cross tired Cannondale. We kept on as time was ticking.

Michael H. and Yair decided on a more scenic route, whilst Dominic and I kept to the fast Route 413, followed by a speedy run down Route 20 back to the river. The Tama by this time was very busy, the milder weather bringing out all and sundry, but we made good time and were both home a whisker after 12:30pm. Perfect.

The Di2? I can't put it better than the conclusion of the review, so I'll quote...
"Shimano Di2 7970 is superb I can find no faults with the way it works. For the money it should be good and it is. If you need the best on your bike then go and buy this, it is fantastic." Hmm.. 'need' the best, well, want the best at least.

The Rapha? Spendy, but proves that you can have high quality cycling clothing that doesn't make you look like a brightly coloured shrink wrapped numpty.

125km, 4:55 ride time, Garmin Connect here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Spending freeze


This blog has its own domain now...

Please adjust your bookmarks, rss feeds, etc. accordingly.

Stig seen on Google Maps - Street View

Appropriately spotted on the roadside by Loch Ness.

Google Maps

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


We've had 'Good Night, and Good Luck' on the DVR for a while now. We finally watched it tonight. Bloody good.

"...otherwise it is merely lights and wires in a box."

NFL - Action-packed

"According to a Wall Street Journal study of four recent broadcasts, and similar estimates by researchers, the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes."

11 Minutes of Action - WSJ

Where's my cheque book?

Fudging the numbers

"Last year was full of surprises. For most of us, one of the biggest was the rise in UK house prices: according to Halifax, they ended 2009 around 4% higher than they started it. But actually, the most surprising thing should have been not that house prices rose at all but that they rose so little. Interest rates were 5% in mid-2008 and 0.5% at the end of 2009. That's important because, in the main, it is not the actual price of a house that determines its affordability to the average buyer but the price of the credit that he can get his hands on to pay for it with."
Things are about to get worse for the housing market - Money Week

"The official figures are only provisional and are typically revised up or down by between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points in future. Therefore, Britain may still be in recession.

Most of Britain’s major economic sectors remained weak in the final three months of the year. A 2.6 per cent increase in car sales was one of the few drivers of economic growth between October and December, after the motor industry received a boost from the Government’s car scrappage scheme. However, the scheme will be withdrawn next month."
Britain at risk of plunging back into recession - Telegraph

"The first quarter of 2010 could be touch and go as VAT goes back up and consumers look to the coming election and fiscal squeeze. We risk a double-dip recession before the recovery has even got going."
Rocky road to the election as the economy limps forward - Times

"The UK is a must to avoid. Its gilts are resting on a bed of nitroglycerine," he said."High debt with the potential to devalue its currency present high risks for bond investors."
UK economy lies 'on bed of nitroglycerine' - Guardian

Exit throught the Gift shop

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I don't think that is biblical

That time already?

Busy day and no time to blog.. off to yoga.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Skincare for boys

"One evening my wife tells me my skin feels lovely and soft; I reply that it's got half an inch of grease all over it, and it would feel just as soft if I'd rubbed on lard. "It wouldn't smell as nice, though," she reassures me.

I call the British Association of Dermatologists and ask if they have a doctor who can explain to me what, if any, benefit I have been gaining from my daily application of gunk."

'At least it smells nice' – Michael Hann - Guardian

Best Headline Ever?

Flashier Great Tits Produce Stronger Sperm, Bird Study Shows

"The findings also give some insight into why female great tits cheat, Helfenstein added. Because "females cannot always get the [colorful] males they want," he said, the females will often settle for a less flashy mate. But the females will still sneak off for a rendezvous with a better-looking male—and a dose of better sperm.
Overall, the study has begun to unravel the century-long mystery of why males often boast brazen colors, even though it makes the birds more conspicuous to predators, Helfenstein said. "It adds a bit of understanding to this puzzle.""


The Homeowner Association and The Shovel

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kumagaya (and back)

Saturday started sunny and cold at 7am. Met Dominic at Tokyo station, 30 minutes later and off to the Arakawa river we went. Quiet, almost empty cycle track all the way to Kumagaya station for a cheap, but satisfying meal, before turning round and heading back to Tokyo.

The headwind all the way out kept our speed down, and although this turned into a lovely tailwind for some of the return, it wasn't long though until the morning onshore breeze turned to an afternoon offshore breeze and a headwind all over again. Tough going indeed. 200km on the nose in 8 hours. Excellent.

Clear roads

Interesting scenery


Garmin details (Dubious HR data in the last couple of hours...)

Friday, January 22, 2010


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cooler than a diamond-encrusted skull

Title: A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter
Year: 2009
Artist: Caleb Larsen
Dimensions: 8"x8"x8"
Medium: Acrylic, custom electronics, programming, internet connection, online auction.
Description: This object perpetually attempts to sell itself on eBay.


A. Artist has created a work of art titled “A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (2009)” (“the Artwork”) which consists of a black box that places itself for sale on the auction website “eBay” (the “Auction Venue”) every seven (7) days. The Artwork consists of the combination of the black box or cube, the electronics contained therein, and the concept that such a physical object “sells itself” every week.

B. Collector understands and agrees to the underlying concept and function of the Artwork and that the sale of the Artwork by Artist is dependent and conditioned upon Purchaser’s agreement and adherence to the below terms. Such terms are fundamental and crucial to the on-going viability and artistic integrity of the Artwork.

A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (2009) - EBay

I think this is brilliant. Art people.. mad as badgers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Band: The Finches

Safety First!

Will it waffle?


Waffleizer - Answers to the question 'Will it waffle?'

Human Bed Warmer

"A hotel chain is employing human bed warmers to help guests get a good night's sleep. The walking electric blankets are dressed in special all-in-one sleeper suits and are sent to warm the beds of guests staying at the Holiday Inn before they get under the covers."

Hotel chain offers human bed warmers - Telegraph

This is my job at home. Not sure I would opt for this myself though.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 Investment Strategies

1. Buy Treasury Bonds.
2. Buy Income-Producing Securities.
3. Buy Consumer Staples and Foods.
4. Buy Small Luxuries.
5. Buy The Dollar.
6. Buy Eurodollar Futures.

7. Sell U.S. Stocks in General.
8. Sell Homebuilder and Selected Related Stocks.
9. Sell Selected Big-Ticket Consumer Discretionary Equities
10. Sell Banks and Other Financial Institutions.
11. Sell Consumer Lenders’ Stocks.
12. Sell Many Low and Old Tech Capital Equipment Producers.
13. If You Plan to Sell Your House, Second Home or Investment Houses Any Time Soon, Do So Yesterday.
14. Sell Junk Bonds.
15. Sell Commercial Real Estate.
16. Sell Most Commodities.
17. Sell Developing Country Stocks and Bonds.

John Mauldin - The Big Picture



Monday, January 18, 2010

Where's my crash helmet?

"John Hunter wants to shoot stuff into space with a 3,600-foot gun. And he's dead serious--he's done the math. Making deliveries to an orbital outpost on a rocket costs $5,000 per pound, but using a space gun would cost just $250 per pound.

How to Shoot Stuff into Space
The gun combusts natural gas in a heat exchanger within a
chamber of hydrogen gas, heating the hydrogen to 2,600˚F and causing a 500 percent increase in pressure.


Operators open the valve, and the hot, pressurized hydrogen quickly expands down the tube, pushing the payload forward.


After speeding down the 3,300-foot-long barrel, the projectile shoots out of the gun at 13,000 mph. An iris at the end of the gun closes, capturing the hydrogen gas to use again." via PopSci

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Women of Dirt

Otarumi Loop

Met at 7:30am at Ebisu for a loop out to Takao. Clear, sunny and cold, perfect cycling weather in my mind. Well.. perhaps a tad chilly as I never really felt like I heated up today.

Quite a hard spin class yesterday, followed by a weights session meant that my legs were a little stiff and tired. This would become more apparent as the ride progressed.

We managed to have a small collision on the towpath of the Tama, after another cyclist swerved erratically into our paths. Dominic and Bryon were the unfortunates to hit the deck, but apart from dented pride and a few minor bruises and grazes both seemed fine. They turned back towards the end of the Tama section, Machin-san, Clinch-san and myself continued.

After that mishap it was fairly uneventful, some nasty looking ice patches lining the road as we progressed through Takao and up the climb, although the sun and traffic kept the roads clear, we made good time back around Sagamihara and onto the Tank road for our return. I really felt tired at this point. A lack of proper fueling combined with the cold temp burning extra calories no doubt.

We kept a steady, if somewhat relaxed pace back to Tokyo. I had intended to do this ride trying to keep my HR below 150 in order to 'build a base' and not stress the legs any further than I had yesterday, plus I am scheduled for more weights tomorrow morning. I will attempt that followed by a recovery spin if I have the time. As you can see from the graph below, I managed my goal.

All in all, a tad more eventful than we would have liked, but a great morning out in the (very) fresh air. 125km, avgHR131, 5:09hrs.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010


"As it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, JAL on Thursday set a new record on the Tokyo Stock Exchange for trading volume in a single stock, with just over 1bn shares changing hands while it fell by the Y30 daily limit for the second consecutive day.
On Wednesday, 823m JAL shares changed hands, representing about 30 per cent of the total. The take-up of stock in the failing airline said more about the windfall for traders who shorted JAL when the stock was trading at far higher prices.
JAL had an inordinately high number of retail  investors, many of them small individual stockholders lured by the travel discounts that the airline offers shareholders. For a minimum holding of 1,000 JAL shares, you get 50 per cent off a domestic airfare — which could easily be worth Y20,000 or nearly $200. At Wednesday’s price, that means a package of 1,000 JAL shares for just Y7,000.
In fact, some of the buying of JAL this week has been attributed to optimistic would-be jetsetters who figure that buying a bunch of nearly worthless Y7 shares would still yield lucrative discounts on travel that might — just might — be redeemable, even as the airline works through its bankruptcy."

The upside of an airline collapse: JAL’s shorting bonanza - Alphaville

At current valuations, the market cap of JAL is about the same as ONE Boeing 747-400, $250mil.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weapons of influence

How do you make people do what you want them to?

* Reciprocity: people will repay favors.
* Commitment and Consistency: people will stick to commitments made publicly.
* Social Proof: people will do what other people do.
* Authority: people obey authority figures.
* Liking: people are more influenced by those they like.
* Scarcity: people desire what is perceived as scarce.

Never mind what people believe—how can we change what they do? - Grist

2010 Predictions

1. Maybe the Last Really Bad Year for Housing

2. The Dollar Will Continue its Descent

3. Stocks Will End the Year Lower

4. Short-Term Interest Rates Will Stay at Zero ... Again

5. Energy Prices Will Go Up and Then Down

6. Gold and Silver Will Soar ... Again

7. The U.S. Economy will Barely Avoid a Double-Dip

8. Inflation will Surprise to the Upside

9. Only a Few Jobs will be Created

10. The 2010 US Elections will Be Shocking

via The Mess That Greenspan Made

Crashing China

"James Chanos is warning that China’s hyperstimulated economy is headed for a crash, rather than the sustained boom that most economists predict. Its surging real estate sector, buoyed by a flood of speculative capital, looks like “Dubai times 1,000 — or worse,” he frets. He even suspects that Beijing is cooking its books, faking, among other things, its eye-popping growth rates of more than 8 percent.“Bubbles are best identified by credit excesses, not valuation excesses,” he said in a recent appearance on CNBC. “And there’s no bigger credit excess than in China.”"

Thomas Friedman would offer Mr. Chanos two notes of caution.

"First, a simple rule of investing that has always served me well: Never short a country with $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves.

Second, it is easy to look at China today and see its enormous problems and things that it is not getting right. For instance, low interest rates, easy credit, an undervalued currency and hot money flowing in from abroad have led to what the Chinese government Sunday called “excessively rising house prices” in major cities, or what some might call a speculative bubble ripe for the shorting. In the last few days, though, China’s central bank has started edging up interest rates and raising the proportion of deposits that banks must set aside as reserves — precisely to head off inflation and take some air out of any asset bubbles.

And that’s the point. I am reluctant to sell China short, not because I think it has no problems or corruption or bubbles, but because I think it has all those problems in spades — and some will blow up along the way (the most dangerous being pollution). But it also has a political class focused on addressing its real problems, as well as a mountain of savings with which to do so (unlike us)."

Contrarian Investor Sees Economic Crash in China - NYT
Is China the Next Enron? - NYT

There's volatility coming.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thousands gather to protest global warming


*China’s estimated economy by the year 2040.

"As China scholars, who take a long view of history, often point out, China was the world's largest economy for much of the last two millennia. (Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, reckons China has been the globe's top economy for 18 of the past 20 centuries.) While Europe was fumbling in the Dark Ages and fighting disastrous religious wars, China cultivated the highest standards of living in the world. Today, the notion of a rising China is, in Chinese eyes, merely a return to the status quo."

Why China's Economy will grow to $123 trillion by 2040 - FP

I'm guilty of much skepticism with regard to the "China" story, this article gave me some pause on that viewpoint.


"The "Chinese bubble" has been a pretty popular topic-du-jour over the last month or so. However, the reality is that this bubble has been building steadily since we last covered it in early April. All evidence points to it from various fundamental indicators (Chinese real estate metrics) to anecdotal (Chinese pig farmers speculating in copper). A fundamental (some would argue THE fundamental) law of markets/physics is in play but we won't see that bubble popping in 2010. We could fill a few dozen pages covering the reasons why but the two biggest drivers are the unique Chinese economic/political system and the big pile of dollars that every new highrise is being built against.

Simply put, a burst of the Chinese bubble is the most likely cause of the fall of the most patriarchal economy since Lee Kuan-Yew. The government, in a self-serving demonstration to make Dick Cheney blush, will see this thing to the edge to prevent that from happening. The framework we are accustomed to viewing modern capital flows through simply do not apply in China - QE and other ham-handed fiscal approaches are comparatively delicate when we evaluate some of the direct and indirect Chinese state-mandated fire hydrants in 2009. If we combine that with the current dynamic of US-China debt flows, this zombie can run for a while."

The China bubble will not burst in 2010 - Zero hedge

I'm still very skeptical, but less so now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"We were too scared."

via the ever-excellent Sheldon, I luckily got a real cake for my birthday, celebrated last Friday night at Amoroso, although it is really today and I am 32. Again. Probably.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another Holiday

The first of the numerous bank holidays we "suffer" through today.
Rising late, gym, dog walking, eating a little and drinking a bit more. The rest follow:

January 1 (national holiday)
New Year (shogatsu): This is the most important holiday in Japan. While only January 1 is designated as a national holiday, many businesses remain closed through January 3.

Second Monday of January (national holiday)
Coming of Age (seijin no hi): The coming of age of 20 year old men and women is celebrated on this national holiday.

February 11 (national holiday)
National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinenbi): According to the earliest Japanese history records, on this day in the year 660 BC the first Japanese emperor was crowned.

March 22 (national holiday)
Spring Eqinox Day (shunbun no hi): Graves are visited during the week (ohigan) of the Equinox Day.

April 29 (national holiday)
Showa Day (Showa no hi): The birthday of former Emperor Showa. Before 2007, April 29 was known as Greenery Day (now celebrated on May 4). Showa Day is part of the Golden Week.

May 3 (national holiday)
Constitution Day (kenpo kinenbi): A national holiday remembering the new constitution, which was put into effect after the war.

May 4 (national holiday)
Greenery Day (midori no hi): Until 2006, Greenery Day was celebrated on April 29, the former Emperor Showa's birthday, due to the emperor's love for plants and nature. It is now celebrated on May 4 and is part of the Golden Week.

May 5 (national holiday)
Children's Day (kodomo no hi): Also called boy's festival.

July 19 (national holiday)
Ocean Day (umi no hi): A recently introduced national holiday to celebrate the ocean. The day marks the return of Emperor Meiji from a boat trip to Hokkaido in 1876.

September 20 (national holiday)
Respect for the Aged Day (keiro no hi): Respect for the elderly and longevity are celebrated on this national holiday.

September 23 (national holiday)
Autumn Equinox Day (shubun no hi): Graves are visited during the week (ohigan) of the Equinox Day.

October 11 (national holiday)
Health and Sports Day (taiiku no hi): On that day in 1964, the Olympic games of Tokyo were opened.

November 3 (national holiday)
Culture Day (bunka no hi): A day for promotion of culture and the love of freedom and peace. On culture day, schools and the government award selected persons for their special, cultural achievements.

November 23 (national holiday)
Labour Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi): A national holiday for honoring labour.

December 23 (national holiday)
Emperor's Birthday (tenno no tanjobi): The birthday of the current emperor is always a national holiday. If the emperor changes, the national holiday changes to the birthday date of the new emperor.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Building Sand Castles

"Last week, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bernanke raised a few more eyebrows by asserting that the Federal Reserve remains in control – more or less – of economic conditions here in the United States.

Like a guy who falls down a flight of stairs, then stands up and says, “I meant to do that,” Bernanke insisted the economy’s dismal trajectory is neither particularly surprising nor particularly worrisome.
“The preconditions for a pickup in growth in 2011 appear to remain in place,” the Chairman declared. And even if economic growth continues to disappoint, the Chairman claims he’s still got lots more gadgets in his bag of tricks.

“Should further action prove necessary,” he remarked, “policy options are available.” The list of potential “further actions” include: 1) Further purchases of securities; 2) a change in the Fed’s policy statement and; 3) a reduction of the interest rate it pays on banks’ excess reserves.

In other words: 1) Printing money; 2) Issuing comforting words and; 3) Encouraging leveraged risk-taking.

“The FOMC will do all that it can to ensure continuation of the economic recovery,” Bernanke added. “The issue at this stage is not whether we have the tools to help support economic activity and guard against disinflation. We do.”

Do the words or deeds of a Federal Reserve Chairman – even an intelligent, well-intentioned Federal Reserve Chairman like Ben Bernanke – possess any real power to counteract the natural forces of economic entropy? Or to rephrase the question, can one man really change the course of a $13 trillion economy?

Isn’t Ben Bernanke just building sand castles?"

Why Bernanke's attempts to fix the economy are only a façade - DR

Friday, January 08, 2010


No snow in Tokyo

via NASA, taken yesterday on the 7th Jan around noon. (The gulfstream is on vacation in Greenland)

Slovakian Theatre

"In what no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time, Slovak officials decided to test airport security in Slovakia on Saturday by concealing plastic explosives in eight suitcases and waiting to see what happened next.

Here’s what happened next: airport security workers intercepted seven of the suitcases but failed to detect 96 grams of the plastic explosive RDX loaded into one bag, which belonged to a Slovak electrician who lives in Ireland and had no idea his luggage had been tampered with. The man boarded his flight to Dublin, retrieved his bag and went home to his apartment.

The man then unpacked but, The Irish Times reports, “the explosives had been concealed so well that he did not find them.”

Three days later, on Tuesday, it apparently occurred to someone in Slovakia that the fact that one of the explosive-packed bags had gone missing was a problem and Slovakian airport authorities contacted their counterparts in Dublin to ask for help.

On Tuesday morning, the Irish Army’s bomb squad paid a visit to the apartment of the Slovak electrician in Dublin and secured the explosives.

According to a Canadian Press report, the man was detained for several hours by the Irish police who said they “initially were led to believe the man might be a terrorist.” The man was released after Slovak officials made it clear that they had been responsible for planting the explosives."

Slovak Air Security Test Goes Very Wrong - NYT

Can you imagine if the man had landed in the USA and been caught?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Market Bears

The Born-Again Bear (Ursus Scottradeum) - this creature was horribly wounded during two prior market crashes while remaining long and margined to the hilt.  Has since sold entire portfolio at the bottom, subscribed to RGE Monitor and delights in telling the members of his old investment club what morons they are.  Can be found roaring "bwahaha" at other investors on the Yahoo Finance message boards.
The Perma-Bear (Ursus Abelsonious) - the very definition of "creature of habit", Perma-Bears are right 2% of the time but tedious and pedantic 100% of the time.  By never conceding the fact that anything could even possibly be a positive, they render themselves irrelevant, even during actual bear markets.  Many, however, are brilliant and lovable, despite their unwillingness to change or concede.
The Conspiratorial Bear (Ursus Tinfoilicon) - A highly adaptive sub-species of the Perma-Bear.  These animals are known for their over-perspicacity and have foreseen 11 of the last 3 market corrections due to a light social calendar and a fondness for Data-mining & Dragons.  They are, however, always the most interesting bears to behold in the forest and serve the important role of keeping the other woodland creatures on their toes and alert.
The David RosenBear (Ursus Aurum Minotur) - a species that is outwardly concerned with the instability of economies and markets yet cannot resist the urge to speculate in gold stocks.  He will justify his "playing" of precious metals with myriad warnings of inflation, deflation, mega-flation, Gaga-flation etc, but in reality, he is banking on the greater fool theory just like everyone else.
The Long-Short Bear (Ursus Kasseus) - can often be found running a hedge fund and being a contrarian sometimes just for the sake of being a contrarian.  He is often bearish but will go long when he senses that too much public opinion may have shifted to his side.  Takes great delight in fading the herd and making the most difficult trade in the case of multiple standard deviations being stretched.
The Grizzled Bear (Ursus Davidticenum) - a long-lived species of bear, one which has been negative for so long that it's forgotten which way is up.  The Grizzled Bear eventually becomes more concerned with being consistently negative than with being right, and so becomes more well-known for his doomsaying than his returns.  TV producers only call this bear to come out of hibernation for an appearance during times of market duress.

The Opportunistic Bear (Ursus Nimblesus) - these are bears gifted with a strong instinct for survival.  They will often compartmentalize their rigorous assessment of big picture economic conditions in favor of profiting in the near-term from what they conceive of as the madness of crowds.  A highly practical species, this is one of the few bear types that did not become endangered over the last 6 months.

via The Reformed Broker

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Whizzed through Narita Immmigration, then Customs, called for the car - we use a great parking company that pick the car up at the Arrival terminal kerb, and deliver the car back to you at Departure terminal kerbside, very convenient and cheap too! - drove to Terminal One to pick-up Mylene (the nanny) without whom the holiday wouldn't have been as much of a holiday as it was - then out onto the Kanetsu highway and home. Dropped off Mylene, then Takanawa and unloaded the car. I struggled with the last suitcase. As a colleague used to say 'No Power'. I had mentioned to Joli as we de-planed that I thought I was getting a bit of a sore throat. Joli measured my temp, which was elevated, and before I knew it I was in bed feeling achy and cold. No other flu type symptoms though. Except the sore throat. Suffice to say, off work for three days with a fever, but much better now. Phew! Not the start to the year I had anticipated and hopefully back to 'Full Power' by the weekend!

Sunday, January 03, 2010