Monday, May 31, 2010

How to destroy angels

Ray Dalio of Bridgewater.

“The European situation is a particularly risky one for a number of reasons. One, the size of the debt dwarfs that of any other debt crisis. It dwarfs the Latin American crisis. It dwarfs the Asian Contagion. These are enormous, enormous amounts. A lot of attention is paid to the sovereign debt, but there are also big private-sector debts. It doesn’t make much difference whether it is government or private, there is way too much indebtedness in these countries….” Set Aside Fears of Inflation - Just for Now - Barrons

Summary for non-subscribers here

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A new bike, a new saddle, a new jersey and donuts.

First ride out today for the latest addition to the ever growing collection of steeds stabled in Shinagawa.

Having spent yesterday afternoon stripping my Trek Madone SSL of its parts and then fitting said bits and bobs to this new frame, I am pleased to report everything performed beautifully. The gears will need a little further tweaking before they attain slick changing perfection but this is quite normal as the cables etc. 'bed' down.

I am sad to retire the SSL but watch this space for further news on that topic. Meanwhile this BMC is very good indeed.
Dave had come across an advert in a cycling magazine bought on a recent trip to the USA for a limited edition Rapha saddle. Being a devout follower of this excellent brand I was easily persuaded to purchase one of the few remaining. Posted from the UK it arrived in plenty of time to be added to the BMC.

Whilst a convert to unpadded carbon saddles, this is significantly different, yet wonderfully comfortable. It passes the test. Bloody good.

Everything else is all tried and trusted parts primarily from the SSL, although also from bikes dating back to 2002!

Dave, Dave and I had headed out of Tokyo at 6:30am this morning, and headed for some of the back roads around Sagamihara to find some hills to train on before finishing with a climb up Yabitsu toge.

Primarily a ride to prep ourselves ahead of some racing next weekend, but more importantly to grab a photo opportunity or two sporting our new La Gazzetta Della Bici jerseys by Shutt VR.

Dave, as official cameraman, took the photos, Dave & I attempted to look suitably PRO. I'll link to the results when they come in, meanwhile a shot of these two dodgy fellows will have to suffice.
Possibly one of the best reasons to climb Yabitsu is at the bottom of the descent on the way down to Hadano. The donut factory is not to be missed. Fresh, hot and guilt-free given the recent exertions up from Miyagase.

We hopped an express back to Shinjuku around 1:30pm, came across the local Omikoshi celebrations, failed at some bike related shopping - yes more, but wrong size and then shut store - before arriving home suitably exercised looking forward to a shower and cup of tea.

Pretty cold day given the time of year, didn't get much of a chance to warm-up.

120km, 1500m climbing and just under 5 hrs of riding, with a PB up Yabitsu of 57mins.

Dave thanks for Allen, Dave thanks for helping me spend, Simon, good job on the jerseys.

Lunch stop

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not the disaster first feared is the new good

From the pen of Lisa Benson of the Washington Post Writers Group via TMTGM

"I would recommend you panic." .

"The light at the end of the tunnel is just a brightly-lit train heading straight for us." .

Thursday, May 27, 2010


"I keep waiting for the day when folks realize that if you invest in the shares of a gold mining company, you basically own a piece of "the money-creation machine." It's sort of like owning a central bank that isn't staffed by losers."

Bill Fleckenstein via DH

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Before the snow comes back

Recreational Maths

"Gary Foshee, a collector and designer of puzzles from Issaquah near Seattle walked to the lectern to present his talk. It consisted of the following three sentences: "I have two children. One is a boy born on a Tuesday. What is the probability I have two boys?"
The event was the Gathering for Gardner earlier this year, a convention held every two years in Atlanta, Georgia, uniting mathematicians, magicians and puzzle enthusiasts. The audience was silent as they pondered the question.
"The first thing you think is 'What has Tuesday got to do with it?'" said Foshee, deadpan. "Well, it has everything to do with it." And then he stepped down from the stage.
To answer the question you need to first look at all the equally likely combinations of two children it is possible to have: BG, GB, BB or GG. The question states that one child is a boy. So we can eliminate the GG, leaving us with just three options: BG, GB and BB. One out of these three scenarios is BB, so the probability of the two boys is 1/3.
Now we can repeat this technique for the original question. Let's list the equally likely possibilities of children, together with the days of the week they are born in. Let's call a boy born on a Tuesday a BTu. Our possible situations are:
  • When the first child is a BTu and the second is a girl born on any day of the week: there are seven different possibilities.
  • When the first child is a girl born on any day of the week and the second is a BTu: again, there are seven different possibilities.
  • When the first child is a BTu and the second is a boy born on any day of the week: again there are seven different possibilities.
  • Finally, there is the situation in which the first child is a boy born on any day of the week and the second child is a BTu – and this is where it gets interesting. There are seven different possibilities here too, but one of them – when both boys are born on a Tuesday – has already been counted when we considered the first to be a BTu and the second on any day of the week. So, since we are counting equally likely possibilities, we can only find an extra six possibilities here.
Summing up the totals, there are 7 + 7 + 7 + 6 = 27 different equally likely combinations of children with specified gender and birth day, and 13 of these combinations are two boys. So the answer is 13/27, which is very different from 1/3.
It seems remarkable that the probability of having two boys changes from 1/3 to 13/27 when the birth day of one boy is stated – yet it does, and it's quite a generous difference at that. In fact, if you repeat the question but specify a trait rarer than 1/7 (the chance of being born on a Tuesday), the closer the probability will approach 1/2.
Which is surprising, weird… and, to recreational mathematicians at least, delightfully entertaining." Magic numbers: A meeting of mathemagical tricksters - NS

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A shot at resolution?

"The worst that could be factually said of Armstrong without leaving any real room for argument is that he was the greatest Tour de France racer in a time of great Tour de France doping. There were 14 other podium spots available during his seven-year streak and, in all, eight riders occupied them. Five of those riders at some point admitted doping, were suspended for it, were convicted of it in court, or paid a fine to have charges settled: Ivan Basso, Raimondas Rumsas, Jan Ullrich, Alexander Vinokourov and Alex Zulle. Two others were linked to doping investigations then cleared or never charged: Joseba Beloki and Andreas Kloden. Just one, Fernando Escartin, had no direct association with doping allegations (though his Kelme team later would).

This federal investigation is not going to stop until there’s enough evidence to convict Armstrong of some charge related to doping—or until someone concludes there isn’t legitimate evidence and the whole thing is dropped. One of Armstrong’s problems all this time is that, aside from passing the tests, he’s had no way to prove he raced clean. If Novitzky quits, that takes us as close to an inarguable no-he-didn’t as we’re ever going to get. Either way, as a public we’ll once and for all be able to get past faith.
As protracted, painful and ugly as it’s going to be to find out how much truth Floyd Landis is telling, he gave us the best shot we’ve ever had at resolution."

Did Lance Dope? The Answer is Coming -


"After the first of 15 planned days of strikes grounded BA flights and caused chaos for thousands of passengers, Derek Simpson, the joint general secretary of Unite, declared that he was at England's football friendly against Mexico.

His tweet shortly after 6pm read: "I am at Wembley for England match . . . it is a first for me!!"

His latest tweets about attending the World Cup warm-up game risked causing further anger at a time when thousands of BA passengers whose flights were cancelled tried to make alternative travel arrangements or get a refund. The collapse of the talks led to the first of a series of three five-day strikes by BA cabin crew, which will cause severe disruption during the bank holiday and half-term breaks." 

Union boss tweets he's at Wembley as BA strikes begin - Telegraph

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How would you react to a Google Street View camera car?

A bike trip to the coast

Along with my Positivo Espresso compatriots, I entered the Tokyo-Itoigawa Classic Endurance Race this weekend. I have been told on numerous occasions that this is not a race, but a "fast ride" as it is somewhat unofficial, but the finishers t-shirt says 'race', so race it is.

This event originally started as a training exercise for hazing new Meiji University Cycling Club members. As members graduated and started going out into the real world as “shakaijin old boys,” the organizers at some point began to accept cyclists with no affiliation to the university. Today, this tradition is kept alive thanks to the voluntary efforts of the OB Committee. Starting in Takao, the course mostly follows Route 20 across the country via 4 checkpoints every 50km or so to Itoigawa on the Sea of Japan coast. I've seen the quoted distance as anywhere between 291km and 296km.


Left work at 1pm to give myself time to prep the bike and put together a small rucksack of gear.

Met Dave at Ebisu station at 4pm, from where we took our usual Komazawa Dori route to the Tama river and so then on to Hachioji. The R&B hotel was our destination and we arrived around 6pm. Checked in and showered, we headed out to sample the delights of downtown Hachioji in a concerted attempt to 'carbo load'.

We first sampled an excellent pint of carbs in a small bar found not too far from the station.
We then followed up with a couple of nice bottles of carbs across the street, where they were kind enough to serve us some pizza and a couple of pasta dishes too.

Returned to the hotel around 9pm and was safely tucked up in bed at 9:30pm, having set the alarm for 2:40am. OMG.


I opened my eyes to a dark, unknown room with a bizarre noise going off in the background somewhere. It took my almost 2 minutes to work out that my iPhone alarm was the source of said noise. I definitely wasn't waking up that morning without help! No pre-ride nerves then, but 2:40am. Crikey.

Got dressed, DZ nuts liberally applied, a couple of Joli bars and Dominic's Rapha bread consumed, bottles loaded, it was time to get on the road.

Dominic, Chris, CJ, Kevin and myself met outside the hotel and were soon on our way to the start, which was short journey of 8km up Route 20 to Takao. Registered and met with James, Yair, Jerome and Steve - a late replacement for our hapless peloton captain David who had a minor bike accident a week or so ago that lead to a major problem of a broken arm and ribs. For Steve, having cycled from London to Tokyo, this event was not going to be a problem. Or so we thought.

4:00am and we were off.

James was literally out of sight before I hit the main road. Going for it. Good luck mate. Exuberance and adrenalin took over for most, and a strong pace maintained to the top of Otarumi warmed everyone up. Jerome had tore up the hill and was off ahead on his own. As the sun came up and dawn arrived, the rest of us descended along the usual route following the lakes and Route 20. The day was spent always in sight of other riders and we picked off a fair few of the earlier starters on our way.

Checkpoint 1. Timecard stamped, Dominic found a helpful mechanic to adjust his front derailleur which was causing a few problems. With this minor 'delay', the queue for the toilet and a general relaxed air towards the day, we took our time before heading out again. I knew I needed to eat some of the offered refreshments, but as was going to be the case all day, knowing I needed to fuel and persuading myself were two different things. I picked up a couple of rice balls and a banana. Then an energy gel.

CJ and Kevin, whilst looking strong and fit, let us go ahead. I guess their midnight arrival at the R&B was starting to make itself felt.

Getting into somewhat of a rhythm we descended into the Fruit Line and skirted Kofu on some fast dual carriageways. We attached ourselves to the back of a group of five Japanese riders, including a tiny, yet very strong lady, who were setting a strong pace, but were also insisting on not using the flyovers and stopping at every red light traffic.  This meant a number of interval like sprints as the lights changed before settling into a good 30km/h+ pace line. Good fun indeed. As we got through the urban area, we came to the front and Steve pulled us like the proverbial train. The Japanese group must have thought it was Christmas. This time we were in the 35km/h zone. It was their turn to get on the back of the paceline and we followed the river to next scheduled stop.

Checkpoint 2. Our Japanese contingent were profuse in their 'arigatos' as we pulled into the next stop, stamped cards, and perused the selection of food and drink. I was suffering from stomach cramps, no doubt NOT helped by that blasted energy gel so early in the day on a relatively empty stomach. Stupid, stupid, stupid. From this point on I had very little appetite and yet knew I had to fuel. It proved to be quite tough, and something I would pay for later. Jerome, having maintained a cracking pace, was at this checkpoint, having decided to rejoin our group. He told us that James had flatted and taken over 20 minutes to get back on the road, putting paid to his aspirations for the day.

We continued on. Fast and straightforward, we took some time to settle into each others pace as we had Jerome disappearing off the front and then pausing as we caught up at a more conservative speed.

Steve pulled off struggling with a desperate need to find a conbini toilet. Something he ate? Little did we know that this was just the beginning for the poor sod. The rest of us, at his behest, carried on. We bore left around Lake Suwa - this was something that Tom would have loved to have done, but as we found out later, it was here that he and his domestiques took a wrong turn for a 15km diversion. Gone were his chances of a top place finish. Hard luck Tom.

As we hooked around Okaya we were passed by a Japanese fellow who told us he was a 6:00am starter. Fast! I think we saw the famous Andy of many previous wins at this point, too. Big grin on his face and obviously loving every minute. We climbed up to an elevation of just under 1000m, before heading down to the next checkpoint located not too far below the summit.

Checkpoint 3. Another timestamp, luckily Dominic remembering to get his card done just as we were leaving, and the same sad set of foods. Steve had caught us back up at this point, but shot straight off to use the facilities. I decided to follow his lead and was able to ease some of my own discomfort. Fueling and hydration are key and it is so important to get this basic stuff right. A definite lack of appetite was not helping.

From here it was pretty rubbish. Through the sprawl of Matsumoto there was traffic, traffic lights and no rhythm to be found. Once beyond here though, the roads opened up and Jerome put the hammer down. Much to our amusement, a fast Japanese rider, who had struggled to get ahead in the town, finally capitulated, jumped on the proffered wheel and joined the Jerome 45km/h train. It is my honest belief that if there are any complaints with regard to a 'Positivo' rider jumping lights or not perfectly obeying the rules of the road (impossible!), then there will be still far more people expressing their joy to have jumped onto our pacelines.

Unfortunately this is where I hit a bit of a wall... 170km or so into the ride. Not a bonk as such, but a distinct drop in power. Yair was suffering too, heads went down, our pace dropped. On what was seemingly the ONLY road in the whole of Japan without a conbini we toiled on until finally we came across a Seven/Eleven in Omachi. I dived into a bowl of mabotofu, washed down with a Coke. Still struggled with a lack of appetite, but brain kicked in and needs took over. Saw Tom ride past as we lay on the ground in front of the store. Yair took to pouring water over his head to try and rejuvenate.

Back on the bikes and off to Hakuba. Finally we had some scenery. Quite inspiring to be riding with the snow covered mountains as a backdrop, especially after so many kms of boring Japanese towns.  This was a fast road and as soon as our 'lunch' settled we were hammering it to the last checkpoint.

Checkpoint 4. We pulled into Hakuba and were directed left to be presented with an amazing backdrop of a snow laden Happo-one with numerous paragliders soaring above. Timestamps done, Jerome did an excellent job of rallying everyone so that we didn't hang about for too long, given that we had just had a good break 20kms or so earlier. Steve was able to just get in his seventh (eighth?) visit of the day before our intrepid Frenchmen was banging on the toilet door, poor guy.

The Jerome train left the station, collected a few extra riders and we had a great paceline going. I had missed the jump on a light and found myself off the back. It was a great sight to see the two bright orange jerseys of Jerome and Dominic at the head of the train, with 8 or 9 guys in sync behind. My lunch had finally kicked in, so down the cassette and I moved up and through to join them. Three of us on the front in identical team kit, with riders lined up behind looked very PRO.

This section is infamous for its tunnels. Full of traffic, large trucks and not much room to get by. Scary stuff. Especially when the knob-head driver leans on the horn or worse moves in too quickly after passing. I would happily meet any of these people out of their car or truck and see how brave they are. Cocks.

We were piling through a slightly uphill tunnel and a machine gun went off... rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. Something was caught round my crank, whipping against the carbon frame, and my ankle. WTF? Speed reduced, it stopped, but as I pulled off the road I found to my dismay a broken rear spoke. What can I say, you put that much power down, something's gonna break man.  The offending spoke was wrapped up with a Park Tools adhesive tire patch kindly donated by Steve and we were back on the road. With somewhat of a wobble! Without the spoke, the rear wheel was buckled, but with the rear brake off, there wasn't too much rubbing or any other physical problem. My mind, however, was running through all sorts of wheel failure scenarios as we descended to Itoigawa at 40km/h. Yikes.

Expecting a 290km+ ride, it was somewhat of an anti-climax to be directed into the hotel carpark at the 283km mark. Final timestamp and we were done at 4:30pmish. 12.5hrs, 10hrs riding. Average (moving) speed a smidge over 28km/h, chuffed with that.

The onsen was glorious, our very own Roubaix shower scene with grime covered arms, legs and faces. We were back on the bikes with very sore behinds and down to the local train station. A 6:43pm green car ticket (ah, blissful comfy seats!) took us to the Shinkansen at Echigo-Yuzawa, back into Tokyo at 9:20pm, home 9:45pm.

I would like to thank my team mates for all their support in completing an important Japanese cycling milestone. The event was very well organised. The route was not very inspiring but well thought out, although the traffic sucked. Next year? Not so much.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Red Friday


"Because Floyd, if you have the audacity to think of yourself as the new whistle blower of the peloton, if you think that you are destined to assume the role of the man who will convict Lance Armstrong of a doping allegation based upon unsubstantiated witness testimony, then quit riding and start writing. Use David Walsh, the author of From Lance to Landis as you ghost writer. But! Don't expect me to buy a copy of your book, I expect you to spin yarns, and I have better fiction to read." Floyd Landis is a compulsive liar

It's not fiction, but it is not credible

"I do know that there is a great phalanx of riders who rode in support of Lance who later were nabbed for doping, the old line of where there's smoke there's fire... guys like Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras, Manuel Beltran, Floyd Landis. And there are others, guys who left Postal, then were either found to be doping or admitted to doping. Guys like Frankie Andreau. The list is long, and if you didn't know better, you would think that the whole USPS/Discovery squad was doped. Because it sure looked that way.

All I know is that for the sake of the sport, for the future of the sport, I hope Lance never doped. Because if he did, it is all over. And he will fall into that same category of athlete who is a total outcast in America. His name will be right next to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemons, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and so on. He will have no endorsements, nothing. He will be a leper. So, I hope he's clean." Floyd

Dream on buddy.

"The Fallout: unless UCI suddenly develops a spine and Lance contemporaneously develops a career-and-Tour-ending "stomach ailment," I'm guessin' nothin' except a giant wad of defamation suits. Better get that "Fairness Fund" back up and running, Floyd, no?" What Else?! Landis, Lance, and Lies


"Floyd is a drop kick, a lunatic, an alcoholic and a nut job. The problem for cycling is that what he has said over the last day is true. Pity he didn't come clean four years ago." Comment on this post Landis Goes Postal

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just the beginning

"Floyd Landis, the American cyclist whose 2006 Tour De France victory was nullified after a positive doping test, has sent a series of emails to cycling officials and sponsors admitting to, and detailing, his systematic use of performance enhancing drugs during his career. The emails also claim that other riders and cycling officials allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong." Cyclist Floyd Landis Admits Doping, Alleges Use by Armstrong and Others - WSJ

"He added that he has no documentation for many of the claims he is making about other riders or officials, and that it will be his word against theirs. Landis said he spent as much as $90,000 a year on performance-enhancing drugs and on consultants to help him build a training regime. Landis said he has kept all of his journals and diaries and has offered to share them with U.S. anti-doping authorities in recent meetings. He added that he has given officials detailed information on how athletes are beating drug testing." Landis comes clean on PED use

This'll be interesting to say the least..

Coalition of Posh

"It is most odd,” said my friend, a Frenchman now living, like most sensible Frenchmen, in London. “Your country has given birth to twins. This Cameron and Clegg, he is the same person, no? They are both, how you say, posh?”

“Yes,” I explained. “But they are different sorts of posh.”

He looked confused: “But both went to private school, both are rich, both are sons of financiers. Even the hair is similar.”

“True,” I conceded. “But they are not the same species of posh. David Cameron is Eton-Oxford-country- clubby-cutglass-shooting party sort of posh, whereas Nick Clegg is Westminster-Cambridge- metropolitan-foreign-glottalstop-trustfund sort of posh. Cameron is upper-upper-middle class with a dash of English gentry, but Clegg is middle-upper-middle class with a hint of European aristocracy. These are quite different things.”

Cameron and Clegg: who is more upper crust? - Times

Explaining "Lost"

for Joli.. a total Lost fan, not sure about the Celtics though.

Fixing football

"While Declan Hill went around Asia researching match fixing in football, he had an unusual bedtime routine.

“Each night before I went to bed,” he writes in his stunning yet mostly ignored book The Fix: Soccer and Organised Crime, “I would carefully unscrew the light bulb in my hotel room, rearrange the furniture, and put my bed in a different position.”

The logic was that if anyone broke into the room aiming to kill him, the dresser in front of the door and the lack of light would give Hill a few extra seconds to act. “It changed the odds in my favour just a little,” he said.

The Canadian journalist-cum-Oxford sociologist is an expert on betting odds and how to change them. His quarry is the mostly ethnic Chinese men who fix football matches – including, Hill convincingly argues, matches at World Cups."

An author risks his life in pursuit of fixers in football - The National

How far does this extend - if there is any element of truth in the story - to other sports.. such as cycling?


"… Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him." Richard Russell: Get out of stocks now

"Raoul Pal is out with a very specific crash call. In his latest note he calls for a big move down in just two days to two weeks. It's all about what he sees as an archetypal crash pattern -- a sharp decline followed by a failed rally followed by a collapse." Raoul Pal - Why a crash is coming

The soundbites are really starting flow now... personally my financial strategy of late seems to be investing in bike frames.. more on that at another time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Chance To Bid On A US Treasury Confiscated Bugatti

"At this point, it seems Tim Geithner finds himself in possession of a few extra Veyrons, SLR Mclarens, Bentleys, Stingrays, Spyders and Murcielagos, and needs to urgently get rid of these. The US Treasury page for the upcoming auction can be found here, as to whether the final auction prices are reasonable, you can check what recent auctions have closed for at this link." via ZH

New Bloomberg functions


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Insane hailstorm

Really gets going after a minute and a half...

It's not rocket science

"The majority of the financial ‘experts’ in the world did not see the credit crisis coming, including the Federal Reserve, SEC, numerous Congressional committees with financial and regulatory oversight, and certainly not the heads of the financial institutions that failed or required a federal government orchestrated ‘bailout’ to stay in business. To simply chalk it up as a Black Swan event is an intellectual copout that concedes an unacceptable level of helplessness in the face of less than mysterious forces. Labeling the largest financial crisis in history as a Black Swan event also provides a degree of absolution to those responsible, who were either blinded by ideology or straightforward greed. The millions of honest hard working people who lost their job deserve better, as do the millions more who work hard and play by the rules. Politicians from both parties and anyone else looking for just one cause for the crisis are missing the bigger picture, and more likely trying to point a finger away from their own contribution. A crisis of this magnitude was not the result of one dynamic. It was a team effort with many contributing players." It's not rocket science - E. James Welsh

Monday, May 17, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull back in the news...

We are here, and the time is now

“… after less than a 12 year period, many observers are claiming the great European experiment is dead. Twelve years after thirteen colonies on the east coast of North America claimed independence from the most powerful empire at the time, they still did not have a constitution. It had a weak central government, without the power to tax and under the Articles of Confederation required unanimity in decision making. Yet to discount its future was a grave error.” -Marc Chandler, Global Head of Currency Strategy, Brown Brothers Harriman, May 13, 2010

"Only time will tell if the Maastricht Treaty and subsequent Lisbon Treaty and other measures announced or underway will lead to a stronger EU confederation and a restored euro as a world-class reserve currency. Now that the worst news of the crisis is public and on the front page of every magazine, we think it presents opportunity for investors. As with every crisis, investor opportunity is best when things look their worst and when uncertainty is high. We are here, and the time is now." David R. Kotok, Chairman & Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors,

The Eurozone and Greece - The Big Picture

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Long hot summer of discontent

"Being French I can promise you first hand that if there is any form of austerity required as part of the $1Tr package it will not fly one bit by main street and we are likely to see some footage reminiscent of Athens last week. We had riots with a daily car burn rate above 1,200 for over a week because a teenager electrocuted himself trying to escape from the cops, so just try and imagine if railway workers can no longer retire at 50 or 55 after being driven to exhaustion watching a computer do their job 35 hours a week?"

Time To Load Up On European Equities Puts - ZeroHedge

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

S&P Fair Value 850

More debt is not the answer

"The return on each new dollar of US debt is plummeting to new lows according to figures from the Federal Reserve."

"The ability to expand debt is contingent on the ability to service debt. If the cost of the debt rises over the net income of the country's capital investment, or even gets close to it, the currency issuing entity is trapped in a debt spiral to default without a radical reform."

"A 'soft default' through inflation is the choice of those countries that have the latitude to inflate their currencies. Greece, being part of the European Monetary Union, did not. The US is not so constrained, especially since it owns the world's reserve currency."

"The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reform, and the economy brought back into balance, before there can be any sustained recovery." via JCA

Here, there or anywhere.

It's all over bar the shouting

"Gordon Brown actually managed his part in the drama rather better, which is strange. Here was a man who has spent the last 13 years refusing to resign from anything. Then he resigned for the second time in two days. Perhaps it’s addictive, like murder: it’s just the first time that’s difficult."

"During the speech, Mr Brown wiped a tear and did a bit more of his inappropriate smiling; Sarah Brown was not smiling in the least; their two little boys, John and Fraser, looked a bit bemused, but seemed to be enjoying the attention. Pity, because they will not see its like again. They will have only the haziest memories of the days when their dad was the most powerful and derided man in the kingdom."

"“We’re not angry,” one man told him. “What are you then?” “We’re peeved.” Is there a more accurate way of summing up the mood of the nation in two words than that?"

Hollywood moment spoiled by noises off - FT

"My impression is that David Cameron will be a more professional prime minister than either Mr Blair or Mr Brown. He seems to have a stable but decisive temperament and a preference for orderly administration."

"A proper reform of administration will depend on the Conservatives winning with an overall majority."

They know it’s all over bar the shouting - Times

Spill, Baby, Spill

"The Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 at a moment when U.S. energy policy was pivoting in favor of offshore drilling. After two years of partisan debate triggered by the $4-a-gallon gasoline prices of 2008, President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders dropped their opposition to expanded offshore drilling.

Today, the Deepwater Horizon lies upside down at the bottom of the Gulf under one mile of seawater in a place called Mississippi Canyon Block 252. Eleven of its crew are presumed dead. Oil from the last well it drilled, a much shallower, less complex job than Tiber called Macondo, is spewing out of control from the seafloor, with about 3 million gallons released at last estimate. A swath of the Gulf about the size of Delaware is covered by an iridescent, rusty orange sheen."

via The Big Picture & Bloomberg

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clinging on to be unelected

So..UK politics..the LibDems have played a very canny game, but is it not a cynical bid for power at any cost? A LibDemLab coalition is a coalition of losers.. with yet another UNELECTED leader foisted on the population.. and still no majority.. the Cons were the only party with any momentum.. they should pull back with honour intact and wait for the next election which cannot be very far away.

The Conservatives should now withdraw their offer.. wait for the electoral reform referendum and the subsequent election.. the attraction of power is very great but Clegg is playing around spending more time talking about electoral reform than the economy, jobs, interest rates and the massive borrowing.. I'm VERY wary of those that pursue power at the cost of personal standards.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rage against the Machine.. "Here they come again"

Ben Lichtenstein is President of, a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and has worked on the trading floor in Chicago for over 15 years.

Listen to him from the pit as the S&P500 market collapsed click for MP3

Looks like I posted this just in time to see the markets in Europe RALLY.
So same as above but in the other direction.. and as I was told today,
"It was all just a big misunderstanding. All is good. No problems. Move along. Close your eyes and buy Equities..."

12th Sigma Event

On FT Alphaville there is this post quoting Dennis Gartman on how the market action was a '12th sigma event'. Normal distribution really shouldn't have any bearing whatsoever in financial market calculations in this day and age. It did however elicit some great comments.

"I break wind in the general direction of your bell curve view of reality."

"There is known irrationality, unknown irrationality and irrational irrationality."

"Who is this clown? 12 sigma event?"

"Algorithmic trading, it works right up to the point it doesn't."

"When you experience "500 year" events every couple of years or so, it's time to reassess the model you are using."

"12th sigma usually means intelligent design."

Useless and unelectable

After a weekend, well a little bit of Sunday evening in front of BBC World, digesting the UK election result, nothing is clear, except I hope the Conservatives and the LibDems can find common ground. The title belongs to a blog post regarding Gordon Brown which I will quote in full below.

"Useless and unelectable.

This point shouldn't be lost. The maths are sobering and ought to be decisive. After winning three successive elections, two by a landslide, under Tony Blair, Labour has won a very slightly higher share of the vote than it did under Michael Foot in 1983.
This is a time not for calm reflection and for taking stock, but for recrimination and bitterness. The first thing that Gordon Brown should do is step down. He is unlikely to do so, I fear, and will instead waste time trying to form a government. Partly this is because of Labour's baroque constitutional procedures, but mainly it's because he can't grasp what's in the party's best interests. Being a failure, he will be embraced by Labour with sentimentality and gratitude. It's the successes, notably Brown's immediate predecessor, whom the party can't forgive."
 Oliver Kamm

As for the others.. not very inspiring, but it would seem the UK is in a similar position to that found in the USA at the last Presidential Election, ie. time for a change. The "winners" will not have an easy time of it by far. They inherit a horrible position, from which there will be little opportunity escape at a profit.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


Relaxing day, walked the dogs, fitted new (wider) handlebars to the Cervelo, took the dogs for a 'groom', imbibed a few glasses of bubbly over a late brunch at TAC, pottered at home. Facing a week ahead without a bank holiday in sight.. a scary thought.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A long day out

There was a general plan (and need) to get a long ride in this weekend ahead of the Itoigawa ride. With Mother's Day tomorrow, and a certain fairly new mother informing me that brunch was booked, I decided to head out early this morning rather than join the group tomorrow.

Alarm went off at 5:15am, I was up, dressed and eating breakfast by 5:30am, out the door and on the road by 6am. I met Dave of the famous calf muscles at 6:30am at the usual spot and we were off up the Tama river to Ome. We made good time on a beautiful morning, arriving outside the Aurore bakery (Positivo approved) to find it closed. 7-11 sufficed.

Off up to Okutama, enjoying the views seen above, and then round the lake and on up Yanigasawa Pass. A pit stop at the top to enjoy the view, then a fast descent down to Enzan. Left turn onto Route 20, a much needed 7-11 lunch stop, after which we then continued via Otsuki and Uenohara to Sagamiko.

Up the hill to the Circle K for some more fuel and water, then heads down for the final 50km, to arrive home at 7pm.

256km, 2500m or so of climbing, 10 and half hours riding, 1 and a half faffing, superb weather.

I found myself struggling a little both mentally and physically around the 135km mark. Some of the short inclines/climbs at this time were quite a struggle, but some intelligent fueling and moral support meant it wasn't long before I was enjoying myself again. With this ride under my belt, I can really enjoy 'tapering' ahead of the Tokyo-Itoigawa event in two weeks time.

Sitting here with a pint of non-fat milk.. to be followed by a couple of pints of water.. mildly concerned about turning down a beer at the Club House so easily, but let's see how I feel tomorrow!

Friday, May 07, 2010

"Geeks. They are the business now"

"A story about greed, fear and randomness from the insides of Wall Street."

"What are the risks of treating the economy and its markets as a complex machine? Will we be able to keep control of this model-based financial system, or have we created a monster?"

Pretty apt I think given what occurred overnight. The video is long at 47mins - it's a TV documentary out of the Netherlands - but I thoroughly recommend taking the time to watch it.

Complacency is gone

Busy day here after a broad sell-off last night in the USA. Will this and the European chaos cause consumers to have a second think about spending? Unemployment is still high across the USA and Europe. Europe is a MESS and the repercussions are far reaching. This sell-off was caused by program trading selling 'at market' and there were no bids, no liquidity, no volume. Any other explanation is smoke and mirrors. Trying to lay the blame on a 'fat finger' is stupid. And shortsighted.

"Let me put it this way: we have painted the gorilla to match the curtains in an attempt to make him almost invisible to those willing to be fooled. But that doesn't mean he's not there." via suddendebt

I'm also watching the UK election results trickle in.. bit like a slow motion traffic accident, or
'"Ordinarily when I say "this is like watching a cricket match," what I mean is "this is interminable," but in this case this is like watching a cricket match in that I have no idea what is happening but can sense the excitement in those who do."' via Bagehot

Thursday, May 06, 2010


"Imagine the tallest and widest of the great California Redwood trees just south of the Oregon border.  When you look at this magnificent 2,000 year old Sequoia, over 375 feet high, it’s what you can’t see that’s most impressive; a root system over 250 feet wide that runs deeper than tree’s actual height. Now that is a foundation.

Munger and Buffett have run their business, Berkshire Hathaway, with that type of foundation in mind.  They operate in a completely opposite way from most public companies.  They run their business, and let the stock price take care of itself.  Most CEO’s try and manage the stock price first and the company second.  This was the problem at Lehman Brothers…  ethics, treating your employees right, putting your customers and shareholders’ interests first, all came second to running the stock price.  Whether it be accounting gimmicks or raising our dividend when we were almost bankrupt, it was all about trying to fool investors and shareholders into thinking we were just fine."
Inside the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting - Lawrence McDonald

Idiot savants, tramp stamps and hooker heels

"Tramp stamp and hooker heels do not begin to describe the sordid, nonsensical role that the rating services performed in perpetrating and perpetuating the subprime craze, as well as reflecting the general deterioration of investment common sense during the past several decades. Their warnings were more than tardy when it came to the Enrons and the Worldcoms of ten years past, and most recently their blind faith in sovereign solvency has led to egregious excess in Greece and their southern neighbors. The result has been the foisting of AAA ratings on an unsuspecting (and ignorant) investment public who bought the rating service Kool-Aid that housing prices could never really go down or that countries don’t go bankrupt. Their quantitative models appeared to have a Mensa-like IQ of at least 160, but their common sense rating was closer to 60, resembling an idiot savant with a full command of the mathematics, but no idea of how to apply them."

"No one or no one company has a monopoly on investment or ratings expertise. Second grade intelligence and a high CQ (Common Sense Quotient) are a rare combination for an individual rating agency or an investment management firm as well. Still, the rating agencies in recent years have displayed little of either. In addition, they have brazenly sold their reputations for unbiased judgment to the very companies they were standing in judgment upon. Don’t bury them however; like vampires in the dead of the night they will outlast us all. Those looking to profit at their expense, however, will dismiss them. They no longer serve a valid purpose for investment companies free of regulatory mandates that can think with a teaspoon of IQ and a tablespoon of CQ."
Lovin' Spoonful - Bill Gross, PIMCO

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


My result...

Monday, May 03, 2010

How the eyes of the world see a very British contest

Spain Eduardo Suárez

The great sadness for Eduardo Suárez is that Tony Blair is not around to fight another day. "We all miss him. All the foreign correspondents." In what way? "Oh, in all ways. He's such a greedy guy! And a liar. You know he was just a real politician, an actor, a multimillionaire. He was just such fun."

And of course, it helped that people in Spain actually knew who he was. "Whereas Gordon Brown…" Suárez sighs. "Gordon Brown is dour and boring, nobody cares about him. He is a very bad figure for foreign correspondents. You can't do anything with him. He gets on well with the Spanish prime minister but this is because they are both in a terrible position – politically, economically – they are like two drunks who are holding on to each other in the street to stop themselves falling over."

France: Bénédicte Paviot

"The Conservatives have been giving the best press conference breakfasts," Bénédicte Paviot says, "good croissants, excellent pains au chocolat…" But Tory efforts at seducing the foreign media have not extended much beyond pastries. "They don't seem interested in talking to us at all so far. We have had no end of Labour people – the prime minister, Miliband on a few occasions – but no sign of David Cameron or William Hague. I sat at the front for Cameron's last press conference, but he didn't take any questions from the foreign media. Nick Clegg talked to us and was happy answering questions in his many languages."

Russia: Zurab Nalbandian

...and binge drinking – shocking even to an Armenian newspaperman. "I remember going to Maidstone on a Friday night," he says. "People drink in Russia, of course, but steadily, never like that. The people who lived in this small town were just terrorised every weekend…"

The process itself, with its hung parliaments and vestigial royal consent, is even more arcane. "I tried to at least explain the TV debates. As a foreign correspondent, you are always trying to say how things could be at home. What is hard to explain is how a couple of phrases from Nick Clegg, about the two other 'old parties', seems to have changed the mind of so many of the electorate. The Russians would find it intriguing that the British public could be so persuadable."

Germany: Susanne Gelhard

"My colleagues said to me: 'Just wait, it'll be completely crazy. There are three weeks and there's no other news.' And I didn't believe them. I thought, how can there be no other news? But they were right! I mean thank God for the ash cloud."

But then there's a number of things that are slightly perplexing for Gelhard. "Such as the fact that Nick Clegg has the same type of background as Cameron and yet he manages to be the Robin Hood of the poor. How did it he do that? I think he must have very good PR management."

The "threat" of a hung parliament is another puzzle. "I think this panic has been made up by the Conservative party. I don't think the financial markets are that afraid of it. We in Germany had a very big coalition when we had the crisis and this was very useful for the country because we had many tough decisions to make and the two big parties came together. Why not have something like that in this country?"

Then there's our voting system, and the difficulty of trying to explain to the viewers at home. "It's very difficult because no one can understand in Germany why Clegg's party is gaining around 30% of the polls but will only gain 15% of the seats in parliament. I have to say that I think our system is more democratic. Which, considering it was Britain that gave the system of democracy to the world, is quite unbelievable."
And Brown? What about Gordon Brown? "Oh, Brown… he's just a very tired-looking, worn-out old man, isn't he?"

United States: Anthony Faiola

"In this race, we've seen a lot of parallels to the last American election with politicians engaging with the grass roots and internet campaigning," he says. "Both Cameron and Clegg have tried to embrace the message of change, which is basically straight from Obama's playbook."

Faiola believes there has been a spike of interest in America for the 2010 election, partly because the "political junkies" in Washington are interested in seeing how the UK handles its deficit, but mostly because of the emergence of Nick Clegg as a credible contender. "People love an underdog story," he says.

General election 2010: How the eyes of the world see a very British contest - Observer

The Largest Heist in History

Building the Great Pyramid: The Global Financial Crisis Explained

"Some economists see overvaluation of financial instruments as the root cause of the current financial crisis. Overvaluation was not a necessary factor, but only a contributory and accelerating factor that worsened the crisis. The crux of the matter is that financial institutions have considered financial instruments, like securities, as good as cash and added them as cash in the deposit creation cycles at a rate that brought the loan-deposit ratio to 100% or above. Without non-cash financial instruments considered as cash it is impossible to go above 100% in a deposit creation cycle. And it does not matter if these instruments were given proper risk characteristics individually discounting their notional, face value. As long as with any residual value, they have been added in deposit creation process to an extent that its ratio was 100% or above, the disaster was only a matter of time. Because of exponential character of the creation it was a matter of a short time."

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." Professor Albert Bartlett


Sunday, May 02, 2010

One Touch Loop

Felt like hard work today.. breakfast could have been more substantial.. not much in the way of carbs the day before.. maybe the main culprit was the kick set pyramid in yesterday's swim?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

If you have to rickroll, go with the Nirvana version...

"Rickrolling is an Internet meme[1][2] typically involving the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up". The meme is a bait and switch: a person provides a web link that they claim is relevant to the topic at hand, but the link actually takes the user to the Astley video. The link can be masked or obfuscated in some manner so that the user cannot determine the true destination of the link without clicking. When a person clicks on the link and is led to the web page, he or she is said to have been "rickrolled". The song may have been favored for this use by those regarding it as the "worst"[3] popular song of all time. Rickrolling has extended beyond Web links to playing the video or song disruptively in other situations, including public places;[2] this culminated when Astley and the song made a surprise appearance in the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,[1] a televised event with tens of millions of viewers." via Wikipedia